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Migrant crisis: More than 120 bodies wash up on Libyan shores in one month

Tripoli: More than 120 bodies of migrants who died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe have washed up around Sabratha in western Libya this month, the city's mayor says. Hussein Thwadi said bodies had washed up on a daily basis, with 53 found on a single day last week.

Separately on Sunday, Spain's maritime rescue service said it had saved 74 migrants crammed into three small boats attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

The rescue service said it collected 25 migrants before dawn on Sunday from one boat, followed hours later by the rescue of 19 others from a second craft, and then a third operation reached a boat bearing 30 more migrants.

No casualties were reported.

Libya is a common departure point for migrants seeking to travel to Europe by boat, many of them fleeing violence, repression or poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

Political turmoil and armed conflict in Libya have given smugglers the space to work with impunity, running trafficking networks that bring migrants across the Sahara desert to the coast.

Of more than 3000 migrants known to have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year, about three out of four perished trying to reach Italy from North Africa, mainly Libya, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

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Nearly 90,000 migrants had crossed the central Mediterranean to Italy as of this week, the IOM said, a 14 per cent increase on the previous year.

As the number of attempted crossings from Libya picked up in the spring with the arrival of calmer weather, many of the boats have been leaving from the coastline near Sabratha.

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"The whole coast of Sabratha is open," Mr Thwadi said. "There are patrols but they do not have enough capacity to tackle this crisis.

"Illegal migration existed before, but with insecurity and the lack of state authorities the crisis has become worse and worse."

A baby is held by her mother aboard an overcrowded rubber boat while they wait to be assisted during a rescue operation ... A baby is held by her mother aboard an overcrowded rubber boat while they wait to be assisted during a rescue operation on the Mediterranean Sea, about 23 kilometres north of Sabratha, Libya, on Thursday. Photo: Santi Palacios/AP

Mr Thwadi said most of the migrants whose bodies washed up this month were from sub-Saharan African states, though there were also 23 Tunisians.

Red Crescent volunteers and local officials have been removing them for burial in a cemetery for unidentified bodies in Sabratha, he said.

A UN-backed government that has been trying to establish itself in Tripoli since March says tackling migration is among its priorities.

But the government is struggling to manage complex security and economic challenges, and still faces political opposition on the ground.

Mr Thwadi said he had raised the issue with the new government's leadership but had not yet received any concrete response.

 

source: www.smh.com.au

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