More than 60 dead after migrant boat headed for Europe capsizes in the Mediterranean

17 December 2023, 07:21

File photo of migrants heading to Europe
File photo of migrants heading to Europe. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

More than 60 people have died after a boat carrying migrants towards Europe capsized in the Mediterranean.

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The boat, which has 86 migrants on board, got into serious trouble off the Libyan coast on Saturday evening when strong waves overwhelmed it near the western town of Zuwara.

Women and children were among the 61 migrants who died, the UN's International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.

"The central Mediterranean continues to be one of the world's most dangerous migration routes," the agency said.

Flavio di Giacomo, a spokesperson for the IOM, said: "Over 2250 people have lost their lives in the Central Med this year.

"A dramatic number which unfortunately demonstrates that not enough is being done to save lives at sea."

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Libya is the most popular departure point into the Mediterranean for people looking to migrate from Africa and the Middle East into Europe.

Many are fleeing wars, while others are seeking a better life.

The country is politically unstable, which has benefited human traffickers, who smuggle in migrants across the country's borders with six countries.

They are then crammed into boats that are often unseaworthy, including rubber dinghies, and launched into the Mediterranean.

People who are caught and taken back to Libya are held in government-run detention centres rife with abuses, including forced labour, beatings, rapes and torture which amount to crimes against humanity, according to UN-commissioned investigators.

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It comes after Rishi Sunak visited Italy to discuss the problem of irregular migration into the UK..

The Prime Minister made a speech in which he said that "enemies" want to use migration as a "weapon".

He added: "If we do not tackle this problem, the numbers will only grow. It will overwhelm our countries and our capacity to help those who actually need our help the most.

"If that requires us to update our laws and lead an international conversation to amend the post-war frameworks around asylum, then we must do that.

"Because if we don't fix this problem now, the boats will keep coming and more lives will be lost at sea."

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