On the heels of a deadly airstrike on a migrant detention center in Libya that killed scores of people and triggered fresh calls for the global community to improve its response to the refugee crisis, 82 migrants are missing and feared dead after a boat that departed from the North African country capsized in the Mediterranean Sea.
The inflatable vessel, which was carrying 86 migrants, sank late Wednesday near the Tunisian city of Zarzis.
According to The Associated Press:
Tunisian fishermen came across the sinking boat and were able to pull out four men, but could not find any of the other passengers on the boat, said Lorena Lando, head of the International Organization for Migration [IMO] in Tunisia. One of the four, a man from Ivory Coast, died overnight and the other three remained hospitalized.
IMO spokesperson Flavio Di Giacomo said in an update posted to Twitter Thursday that the migrants "sailed a few days ago from Zwara, Libya."
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) for the Middle East and North Africa tweeted that the group was "shocked and sad to see another tragedy happening in the Mediterranean Sea," where vessels have often sunk while attempting to transport migrants from North Africa to Europe.
Shocked and sad to see another tragedy happening in the Mediterranean Sea.— IFRC Middle East and North Africa (@IFRC_MENA) July 4, 2019
Tunisian Red Crescent managed to save 4 #migrants out of the 86 passengers who were on the rubber inflatable boat heading from Zouara in #Libya to Europe. https://t.co/U3pBJz2WZo
News of the migrants missing at sea comes as the death toll from the attack earlier this week on the detention facility in Tajoura—a suburb of the Libyan capital Tripoli—reportedly has reached at least 53, with over a hundred more wounded.
As Common Dreams reported Wednesday, U.N. officials and human rights groups responded to the attack by demanding an independent international investigation to determine who is responsible for the potential war crime and a humanitarian evacuation of migrants who are held in Libya, a major departure point for refugees who try to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
"This brutal slaughter is also a sickening reminder of the deadly consequences of Libya and Europe's callous migration policies," Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International, said in a statement Wednesday.
Mughrabi and other human rights advocates urged European leaders to stop ignoring the brutal conditions and abuse that migrants face in Libyan detention centers—and work to provide refugees safe passage out of Libya, which includes making sure those rescued at sea aren't sent back to the war-torn country.
IMO spokesperson Safa Mshli told the AP that despite the widespread outrage provoked by the air raid, "we are not aware of plans to relocate the migrants that remain in Tajoura." Mshli reiterated that "migrants intercepted or rescued at sea should not be returned to Libya, where they will face the same inhumane conditions."
The AP noted that "around 6,000 migrants, most from elsewhere in Africa, are being held in Libya's detention centers after being intercepted by the E.U.-funded coast guard," and "in Tajoura, hundreds of migrants are held in several hangars next to what appears to be a weapon cache."
The United Nations Network on Migration said in a statement Thursday that the air raid "places the spotlight on the often unconscionable conditions in which many migrants are detained, not just in Libya but around the world, and the grave risks they face in detention."
The network called on all countries "to put an end to unnecessary and arbitrary instances of detention, as well as substandard conditions of immigration detention, including overcrowding and lack of access to food, hygiene and health services, to reunite families immediately, and to ensure that no child is ever detained for reasons relating to their, or their parents', migration status."
"Migrant women, men, girls, and boys are entitled to appropriate protection and care, based on individual assessments, in accordance with international human rights law, and with particular respect to their right to liberty," the network said.