More than 80 people trying to reach Europe from Libya are feared dead after their boat capsized off the coast of Tunisia, according to the UN migration agency.
The boat sank on Wednesday off the port town of Zarzis and 82 of the migrants who had been onboard were missing, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said. Fishermen pulled four men from the sinking boat, said Lorena Lando, the agency’s head in Tunisia. One of the four died later in hospital.
A government source said the survivors, who were rescued nine miles (14.5km) off Zarzis, informed coastguards they had set out from Libya and that dozens had drowned.
Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesman for the IOM, tweeted: “More updates are needed in order to confirm what happened and the actual number of missing.”
At least 65 people heading for Europe from Libya drowned last May when their boat capsized off Tunisia.
Libya’s western coast is a main departure point for African migrants hoping to reach Europe with the help of human traffickers, though numbers have dropped because of an Italian-led effort to disrupt smuggling networks and support the Libyan coastguard.
Although fighting in Libya has made the situation more difficult for those involved in people-trafficking rackets, international aid officials have warned it could also prompt Libyans to flee the country.
On Wednesday, an airstrike on a Libyan migrant detention centre killed at least 53 people. It was reported that guards shot at detainees trying to flee the attack. The UN and aid groups blamed the airstrike deaths in part on the EU’s policy of partnering with Libyan militias to prevent people from trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.-The Guardian