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UN calls for urgent action after 45 die in largest recorded shipwreck off Libya coast in 2020

The Address | Benghazi – Libya

TRIPOLI – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR have called for urgent action after at least 45 migrants and refugees on 17 August, in the largest recorded shipwreck off the Libyan coast this year. 

“Some 37 survivors – mainly from Senegal, Mali, Chad and Ghana – were rescued by local fishermen and later detained upon disembarkation. They reported to IOM staff that 45 others including five children lost their lives when the vessel’s engine exploded off the coast of Zwara,” UNHCR and IOM said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

The two UN agencies called for a review of UN member states’ approach to the situation after this latest tragic incident in the Mediterranean.

“There is an urgent need to strengthen the current search and rescue capacity to respond to distress calls,” both UN agencies stated.

IOM and UNHCR pointed out there is a “continued absence” of any dedicated EU-led search and rescue programme.

“We fear that without an urgent increase in search and rescue capacity, is a risk of another disaster similar to incidents that saw large loss of life on the Central Mediterranean”.

Both UN agencies underlined that “the instability and lack of security in Libya enables smugglers, traffickers, and criminals in general to act with impunity as they prey on vulnerable migrants and refugees.”

“UNHCR and IOM call on Libyan authorities to take firm steps against smugglers and traffickers,” said the two agencies before adding, “This should include disrupting and ending smuggling rings led by criminal groups to prevent further exploitation and abuse.”

“The international community should assist these efforts and provide more support to the authorities in their fight against human trafficking networks,” concludes the statement.

At least 302 migrants and refugees have died so far this year during their attempt to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa into Europe.

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