At least 41 migrants drowned off the Libyan coast in a shipwreck, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Wednesday.
According to testimonies of the 77 migrants who were rescued by a commercial vessel, a total of 120 people were on a dinghy that left Libya on Feb. 18, including six women, one of whom was pregnant, and four children, UNHCR and IOM said in a statement.
“Tens of thousands of persons travelling along the route through Libya to the Central Mediterranean have fallen victim to unspeakable brutality at the hands of traffickers and militias,” the statement said.
Migrants who were rescued and returned to Libya are forced into arbitrary detention and risk becoming victims of abuse, violence and major human rights violations, the statement said.
IOM and UNHCR reiterated that Libya “cannot be considered a safe port and that every effort must be made to ensure that persons rescued at sea are not sent back there.”
Due to the state of insecurity and chaos in the North African nation following the overthrow of its leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, thousands of immigrants, mostly Africans, chose to cross the Mediterranean from Libya towards Europe.
Some 160 migrants have died in the Central Mediterranean, while more than 3,500 others were rescued and returned to Libya so far this year, the statement said.