TRIPOLI – At least eight people died after a boat crammed with scores of African migrants capsized off the Libyan coast, the local Red Crescent organisation said on Wednesday, adding that nearly 100 others had been rescued.
Bodies washed ashore near the Libyan town of Castelverde 40km (25 miles) east of Tripoli after the boat sank on Tuesday, part of a growing number of deadly shipwrecks that have killed scores of migrants in the Mediterranean over the past year.
The number of migrants and refugees seeking to cross to Europe in search of a safer or better life has grown since the COVID-19 pandemic, although it remains below the levels of 2014-15, humanitarian agencies say.
According to the Red Crescent, which has been handling the search and rescue operations, eyewitnesses to the disaster said nearly 150 people had packed on to the boat in hopes of reaching Italy.
On Wednesday, Red Crescent workers in protective clothes were laying bodies of the drowned into bags by the portside.
Libya is a major departure point for people seeking to reach Europe because of its proximity to Italy and its own porous borders.
However, immersed since 2011 in its own conflict, and with much of the country controlled by armed factions, Libya is also a dangerous place for migrants and refugees.
Many are locked into detention centres where some have complained about ill treatment including neglect, abuse and exploitation.