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UN says about 100 migrants risk drowning in Mediterranean

By AFP - Jul 27,2020 - Last updated at Jul 27,2020

GENEVA — Around 100 migrants fleeing war-ravaged Libya have run into difficulty in the Mediterranean and could drown, the UN said Monday, urging a rapid rescue.

The arrival of summer and more favourable conditions at sea tends to lead to an increase of attempts to cross the Mediterranean, and the deteriorating situation in Libya is also prompting more migrants to take their chances at sea and reach Europe.

The International Organisation for Migration warned in a tweet that "around 95 migrants are still floating in the Central Mediterranean at risk of drowning, after attempting to flee Libya".

IOM was aware that the migrants had "been at sea for at least 37 hours sending distress calls", spokeswoman Safa Msehli told AFP in an email.

The UN agency did not provide any further details, but stressed in its tweet that "states and shipmasters have a moral and legal obligation to respond to distress cases at sea”.

"Delays in rescue have resulted in avoidable deaths in the past and inaction is absolutely inexcusable," Msehli said.

More than 100,000 migrants tried to cross the Mediterranean last year with more than 1,200 dying in the attempt, according to the IOM.

Tens of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as sub-Saharan African and Asian migrants hoping to make it to Europe, have found themselves stranded in Libya in horrifying conditions.

The overthrow and killing of Muammar Qadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 has sparked years of chaos that traffickers have exploited to turn Libya into a key route for illicit migration to Europe.

The situation of refugees and asylum seekers became more critical after eastern military strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an assault on Tripoli in 2019, and was further compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.

Migrant departures from Libya's coast increased by nearly 300 percent this year between January and the end of April, compared to the same period in 2019, according to the UN.


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