10 migrants found dead off Libya coast after European coast guards ignore rescue calls

As many as 99 people on the boat were rescued alive. The wooden boat was found by Doctors without Borders (MSF) around 30 nautical miles from the Libyan coast

November 18, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Migrants die at sea
(Photo: Virginie Nguyen Hoang/Huma)

As many as 10 migrants were found dead in a boat off the Libyan coast during a rescue operation carried out by Doctors without Borders (MSF) on Wednesday, November 17. The MSF claimed that the overcrowded wooden boat was stranded in the Mediterranean sea for more than 13 hours. 99 people on the boat were rescued alive.   

The wooden boat was found by the MSF around 30 nautical miles from the Libyan coast. MSF said that its rescue ship Geo Barents has a total of 186 migrants rescued from different boats in the same region in the last two days. Among those rescued is a 10-month-old infant. 

A majority of the migrants rescued by the MSF belong to the west African countries of Guinea, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, with some from Somalia and Syria. 

According to news reports, several European coast guards ignored earlier distress calls and it was only hours later that the MSF received another distress call. By the time it could reach the wooden boat, 10 people had already died due to suffocation. Fulvia Conte, MSF’s deputy search and rescue team leader, was quoted in a statement issued by the MSF saying, “this is another tragedy at the sea that could have been avoided.” 

Rising number of dead migrants

According to the International Organization of Migration (IOM), the number of dead migrants in the Central Mediterranean region in 2021 has already crossed last year’s figures. According to the IOM, until November 13, the total number of deaths recorded was 490, with 736 people missing. Last year, the total number of deaths was 381, with 597 missing. 

According to the Missing Migrants Project, the total number of dead migrants trying to cross the sea (Western, Central, Eastern and West Africa/Atlantic routes) to Europe since 2014 is over 25,000. This year, the number of dead has already exceeded the figure in the last three years.  

Every year, thousands of people from across Africa and Asia try to cross the Mediterranean sea from Libya and other points to reach different European countries. Most of the migrants make the journey in an attempt to avoid ongoing wars and conflicts in their own countries or in search of better economic prospects due to poverty.  

European countries do not accept migrants coming through Libya and other Mediterranean routes and term them illegal. Most of them are either detained on arrival and sent back to Libya or other countries of origin, or their overcrowded boats are forced to return while at sea. Fear of Libyan coast guards often delays their return, which means migrants being stranded at sea for days without enough food and water. Despite knowing the fate of such people, European countries have refused to listen to the repeated calls of the IOM and other organizations to change its policy. The EU even fails to provide “the much needed dedicated and proactive search and rescue capacity,” MSF said in its statement. 

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