A boat carrying dozens of migrants bound for Europe capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya. At least 40 people are missing and presumed drowned, U.N. officials said.
Charlie Yaxley, Global Spokesperson, UNHCR, said that rescue operations were underway by the Libyan Coast Guard and local fishermen.
“They have pulled some 60 people ashore and rescued them and returned them nearby to the coastal city of Al Khums, some 100 km east of Tripoli,” he said.
Yaxley said that the UN Refugee Agency is providing the survivors with medical and humanitarian assistance.
Ayoub Gassim, a spokesman for Libya’s coast guard, told The Associated Press that five people were confirmed dead, including a woman and a child from Morocco whose bodies were recovered near the western town of Khoms, around 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Tripoli. The other dead were men from Morocco, Sudan and Somalia.
This incident comes just weeks after 150 people lost their lives in the largest Mediterranean shipwreck of this year, bringing the total number of people who have lost their lives across the Mediterranean to 900.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling for a drastic shift in the approach to the Mediterranean.
“We need increased search and rescue capacity, including a return of EU States’ search and rescue vessels, and the lifting of NGO operations both at sea and in the air,” Yaxley said.
“Their efforts should be recognized and acknowledged, not criminalized, not stigmatized. These tragedies must end. We cannot continue having expressions of sympathy when this loss of lives occurs,” he added.