Eight refugees drown as boat sinks off Libya’s coast 0

At least eight refugees have drowned when their Europe-bound boat sank off Libya’s coast, a coastguard official says. The eight bodies were on an inflatable craft that can carry up to 120 passengers, said Colonel Fathi al-Rayani, head of the coastguard in Garabulli, 60 kilometers east of Tripoli.

He estimated that “at least 100” refugees were missing. The boat was spotted deflated off Garabulli, and the coastguard found the bodies inside, AFP reported. Conflict-ravaged Libya has long been a stepping stone for refugees seeking a better life in Europe.

The UN says around 61,250 refugees have reached Italy since the start of the year after crossing the Mediterranean, while 1,778 more are dead or missing. The Italian coastguard has said that more than 900 refugees were rescued off Libya on Thursday and Friday.

Libyan navy spokesman, General Ayoub Qassem, meanwhile told AFP that coastguards patrolling off Zawiya west of Tripoli on Friday intercepted five inflatables and two wooden boats with more than 570 refugees on board.

He said the boats were being escorted by five Libyans on a jet ski and two outboards, and that three of the men were apprehended. “The migrants are Africans, Bangladeshis, Egyptians, Moroccans … and were delivered to the detention center in Zawia,” Qassem said.

Intercepted or rescued refugees are often held in detention centers before being repatriated. People traffickers have exploited the chaos in Libya since the 2011 uprising deposed and killed former dictator Muammar Ghaddafi to boost their lucrative but deadly trade.

(Source: AFP)