(CDeNews) – The UNHCR team and IOM team in Porto Empedocle confirmed that they have verified the accurate testimonies about a shipwreck that took place on Saturday 20 February in the Central Mediterranean which led to the death by drowning of at least 41 people.
According to a statement the IOM and UNHCR said that 120 people were on a rubber dinghy that left Libya on Thursday 18 February. On this dinghy there were 6 women, one of whom was pregnant, and 4 children. After about 15 hours water started to seep in the boat and the people on board tried in every way to ask for help. In those hours, 6 people died as they fell into the water while two others, having sighted a boat in the distance, tried to swim to it, however ended up drowning.
The statement confirmed that after three hours the Vos Triton approached the zone to carry out a rescue operation but the situation was difficult and delicate and in the operation many people lost their lives at sea. Only one body was recovered. Among those missing there are 3 children and 4 women.
This year, to date, around 160 lives were lost in the central Mediterranean.
According to data published by UNHCR, out of a total of over 3,800 people who arrived in Italy by sea from January 1 to February 21, 2,527 left from the Libyan coast.
According to data collected by the IOM, in the same period over 3,580 people were intercepted at sea and returned to Libya, where – forced to undergo arbitrary detention running the risk of becoming victims of abuse, violence and serious violations of human rights.
The IOM and UNHCR reiterate that Libya is not to be considered a safe haven and every effort must be made to ensure that people recovered at sea are not returned there. In line with international obligations, the duty to rescue people adrift at sea must always be respected, regardless of their nationality and legal status.
They stressed that the fact that refugees and migrants continue in their desperate attempt to reach Europe through the Central Mediterranean is proof of the need for an immediate international effort to offer them viable alternatives. There are solutions, what is needed is a change of pace to strengthen access to education and to increase the livelihoods available in the countries along the route.