At least 74 bodies were found on the beach in Zawiya but the circumstances of their drowning remained a mystery. (Photo: Twitter/Red Crescent)
Cairo: Scores of bodies, presumably of African migrants, washed ashore in Libya, in the western city of Zawiya on the Mediterranean Sea, Libya’s Red Crescent spokesman said on Tuesday.
At least 74 bodies were found on the beach in Zawiya but the circumstances of their drowning remained a mystery, the aid organisation’s spokesman Mohammed al-Misrati told The Associated Press.
The bodies washed ashore overnight but there was apparently no sign of a wrecked boat or vessel that they could have been on. The agency posted on its Twitter account photographs of dozens of bodies in white and black body bags lined up along the shore.
Al-Misrati said the local authorities would take the bodies to a cemetery in the capital of Tripoli that’s allocated for unidentified persons.
Migrant deaths have risen to record levels along the Libya-Italy smuggling route across the Mediterranean Sea.
Last week, Fabrice Leggeri, director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, said the Libya-Italy smuggling route across the Mediterranean has seen record numbers of migrant drowning deaths in 2016.
According to Leggeri, the recorded migrant deaths along the central Mediterranean route stood at 4,579 last year, which still might be much less than the true loss of life. That’s compared to 2,869 deaths in 2015 and 3,161 in 2014.
There is little sign of the surge abating, even during wintertime. There were 228 recorded deaths in January, by far the biggest monthly toll in recent years. Leggeri blamed the very small dinghies and such poor vessels for the high death rate.
In Libya, the turmoil engulfing this North African country has become a death trap for thousands of migrants, most of them from sub-Saharan African countries, seeking to escape poverty and find a better life in Europe.
Libya, divided with competing governments, is run by militias, many of which profit from the smuggling and human trafficking. Rights groups have documented migrants’ horror journey which involves torture, rape, and forced labour inside Libya.
The country sank into lawlessness following the 2011 uprising that turned into a full-blown civil war that led to the toppling and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Since then, human trafficking has thrived amid Libya’s chaos.