At least 43 dead after migrant boat capsizes off Libyan coast

At least 43 people drowned off the coast of Libya while trying to reach Europe on Tuesday, the first incident of its kind in the Mediterranean this year, according to United Nations agencies.

A boat carrying the migrants capsized in rough seas hours after departing from the Libyan coastal city of Zawya, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a joint statement on Wednesday. Ten survivors were rescued.

Those drowned were all men from West African countries including Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Ghana, and the Gambia, the U.N. agencies said.

Libya is a major transit point for people seeking to informally enter Europe from Africa. But crossing the Mediterranean was the single most dangerous migration route last year, with hundreds killed trying to make the journey.

Migrants and refugees face a “perilous situation” in the war-torn north African country, the U.N. agencies said. “Arbitrary arrests and arbitrary detention in the direst of conditions continue. Many are victimised and exploited by traffickers and smugglers, held for ransom, tortured, and abused.”

And analysts warn the security situation risks deteriorating further as both sides in Libya’s civil war continue to rearm despite agreeing a ceasefire deal last October.

Turkey has provided significant military support to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), deploying drones and Syrian mercenary fighters as part of the fight against forces led by General Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar launched a military campaign to take control of Tripoli with the backing of Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in April 2019. But fighting reached a stalemate 14 months later following Turkey’s intervention.