ZAWIYA, 27 January 2021 – At least 43 African migrants died Tuesday when their boat capsized in rough conditions hours after departing the Libyan seaside town of Zwara.
Ten survivors were rescued and brought to shore in Zwara, where they told of the ordeal at sea.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration identified the accident as the first migrant shipwreck of 2021.
The United Nations agencies reiterated their call for “a tangible show of solidarity” from European states with countries receiving high numbers of arrivals.
UNHCR and IOM officials said the loss of life during this first accident and many, many others before should highlight the need for State-led search-and-rescue operations.
They two UN agencies also called for a “shift in the approach to the situation in the Mediterranean”.
Videos of European coast guards patrolling dangerously around dinghy boats transporting African migrants and then opening fire into the water all around them have revolted many on social media leading to petitions that have yielded no concrete change in policies.
Whatever the grave dangers are of crossing the desert on foot and trying to cross the sea into Europe in a canoe, they do not seem to represent a worse danger for hundreds of thousands of Africans willing to take the perilous journey every year.
On Wednesday, Libyan authorities intercepted and prevented the setting out to sea of another 48 migrants on an inflatable boat.
The decision by European countries to pay networks in Libya to prevent migrants from setting off on the journey has led to a slave market of Africans in Libya, among other abuses
This week, the UNHCR and IOM also called on rich nations to do more to end the arbitrary arrests and detention, as well as the exploitation and abuse by traffickers and smugglers of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa in Libya.