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’240 feared dead’ in latest migrant shipwreck off Libya

More than 200 migrants are feared dead after the latest shipwreck off the Libyan coast, according to Proactiva Open Arms. The Spanish aid organization’s spokesperson, Laura Lanuza, said Friday that at least 240 lives had likely been lost.


The estimate came after the five bodies of African migrants were found floating near two capsized boats, which can each hold more than 120 people, she said.

A Libyan court on Friday meanwhile blocked an agreement between Libya and Italy aiming to halt the flow of migrants from the North African country.

The Spanish organization did not specify when the accident had occurred, but said that the corpses had been found 21 km north of Sabratha. They are all between the ages of 16 and 25 and seemed to have drowned, since there are no signs of violence on their bodies, the spokesperson said. She added that a search was underway for another dinghy and that human traffickers normally fill the boats to over-capacity, making the estimate of at least 240 people dead a likely possibility.

The ’central Mediterranean route’, which leads to Italy, has been preferred by migrant traffickers after the closing of the Balkan route. This section of the sea is difficult, especially in winter, inevitably leading to shipwrecks and drownings.

Last year, almost 4,600 people lost their lives in using this route, and in 2015 the number was over 2,850. Since 2014, there have been over 10,000 victims ascertained, but the actual figure is undoubtedly higher.

The agreement between Italy and Libya was signed in early February and aims to help Libyan authorities fight against human trafficking, thereby reducing the number of migrants arriving on Italian coasts. However, it was possible to sign it only with the government under Prime Minister Fayez Al-Serraj, based in Tripoli and supported by the UN.

The parliament, controlled by supporters of General Khalifa Haftar, considers in invalid. The Libya Herald website announced the Tripoli court’s halt to the agreement and said that it was unclear what sort of impact the ruling would have. An appeal had been lodged by six people including former justice minister Salah Al-Marghani, it added.

The website noted that the issues with the agreement concerned the legitimacy of agreements signed by the Serraj government and not only the plan to reduce migrant flows. The Serraj government has not received a vote of confidence from the Tobruk government. A statement is in place within the assembly due to a section of it that wants an important role for General Haftar.

Jimirasire

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