LIBYA: Migrants feared drowned while fleeing by sea

13 May, 2011
Three Ethiopian friends who survived more than two weeks adrift in the Mediterranean wander through Choucha Camp. Credit: UNHCR/H.Caux
Three Ethiopian friends who survived more than two weeks adrift in the Mediterranean wander through Choucha Camp. Credit: UNHCR/H.Caux

As fighting continues, the number of people trying to reach Europe by sea has risen since the crisis in Libya began. There are major concerns as people fleeing the violence are often using unsafe and overloaded vessels. On 6 May, a boat carrying people fleeing Libya broke up shortly after departing Tripoli. Relatives of those onboard say the vessel was carrying around 600 people. Most of those onboard are believed to have been from Sub-Saharan Africa. Hundreds of people are missing and bodies have been reportedly seen floating in the sea and washed ashore along the Lampedusa coast. The full death toll is unknown.

UNHCR has since appealed for more reliable and effective mechanisms for Mediterranean rescue, urging states, commercial shipping companies and others present in the Mediterranean to consider all boats leaving Libya for Europe in need of assistance. At least 1,000 people who have fled Libya by boat so far remain unaccounted for.

In her statement to the Security Council on 9 May, ERC Valerie Amos called for a temporary cessation of hostilities in Misrata and other areas of Libya for humanitarian purposes, reiterating her earlier call in April. This would allow for an independent assessment of the humanitarian situation and would also enable delivery of essential medical supplies and other relief items, as well as the evacuation of third country nationals, the wounded, and others who require emergency medical assistance.

Fighting continues in a number of locations in western Libya and further east in Ajdabiya. On 12 May, in Tripoli, two people were reportedly killed. In Misrata, fighting intensified in the west and south of the town, with hospitals recording a number of wounded and dead, according to International Medical Corps (IMC). In the Nafusa (western) Mountains fighting has been reported around Zintan and in other areas.

More>> OCHA Situation Report #36