Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Libya calls off search for migrants lost at sea

Libya says that they have stopped searching for the over 300 migrants who tried to head for Europe but didn't make it. The Africans left for Europe to try to search of jobs, after giving money to smugglers who promised to ferry them to Europe. The migrants were crammed onto tiny boats that were likely without safety equipment.

From this story in the New Zealand Herald, we hear from some of the survivors.

Laurence Hart, an official with the International Organisation for Migration in Libya, said that authorities stopped the rescue operation since chances were slim of finding more survivors from the weekend incident.

Only 20 survived when the wooden vessel with 257 people on board, mostly African migrants and including 70 women and two children - both of whom died - sunk only three hours off Libya.

Hart said aid workers heard survivors' accounts at the Twesha refugee centre outside of Tripoli on Wednesday. "Many had kidney problems from swallowing sea water because they spent eight hours in the sea," he said.

About 21 bodies were found by Tuesday morning, and several more bodies washed ashore Tuesday night, near the ancient port city of Sebrata, some 80 kilometres west of Tripoli, Hart said.

Survivors of the capsized boat said that the smuggler, an Egyptian national, died, the IOM reported. The survivors said their boat left the Libyan coast early Sunday morning, said Michele Bombassei of the IOM's Tripoli office. Three hours later the boat capsized. There have been conflicting reports on when the boat went down reflecting the difficulty of obtaining information on the furtive crossings from often-traumatised survivors.

The Egyptian consulate in Tripoli said at least 10 Egyptians travelling on the capsized boat died, according to a report in the Egyptian state news agency, MENA.

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