libya

90 migrants, most of them Pakistanis, feared dead off coast of Libya

Three survivors told the International Organisation for Migration that most of those feared dead were Pakistani nationals, though this has not been verified

Agencies
14:59 February 2, 2018
A Libyan coastguard vessel during a rescue operation last month.

Ninety people are feared to have drowned off the coast of Libya after a smuggler’s migrant boat capsized, the UN’s migration agency and its partner agencies are reporting.

Three survivors told the International Organisation for Migration that most of those feared dead were Pakistani nationals, though this has not been verified.

Olivia Headon, an IOM spokeswoman, said 10 bodies had washed ashore near the Libyan town of Zuwara.

Eight were believed to be Pakistani, and two Libyan.

“We are told that two survivors swam to shore, and one person was rescued by a fishing boat,” Headon said by phone from Tunisia’s capital to reporters at the UN in Geneva.

“We are working to get more details on the [capsizing] and where the survivors are so that we can assist them better.”

Initial indications were that the boat had become unbalanced, she added.

An increasing share of those attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Italy and Europe via Libya are Pakistani, she said.

Pakistanis were the 13th largest nationality represented among migrants making the crossing last year, but the third-largest contingent in January.

Headon said the reason for the increasing flow of Pakistanis wasn’t immediately clear, nor whether the greater influx was likely to continue, but added: “We’re looking into it.”

IOM says 6,624 people crossed the Mediterranean in January, about two-thirds of them to Italy – a 10% increase from a year earlier. About 250 people died while making the crossing in January, six fewer than a year ago.