In another shocking incident, 65 migrants from Libya drowned in the Mediterranean when their boat capsized off Tunisia. Authorities describe this incident as one of the deadliest shipwrecks involving migrants trying to reach Europe via north Africa this year. The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said 101 people had been picked up at sea and returned to Libya. This is despite repeated warnings that it is not a safe country to send the people back to.
The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland said the international community needed to stabilize Libya and the sub-Saharan countries producing flows of migrants and ‘stop fueling the fire by giving generals hope that they can take over’. Egeland added that Europeans bore part of the responsibility to avoid the ‘mass haemorrhage of human lives in the Mediterranean’. Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Friday the authorities had allowed a boat with 30 rescued migrants to dock at an Italian port. He said the boat would be impounded and not let out to sea again. Sources say the migrants included two pregnant women, a baby and four unaccompanied minors. They were picked up by the Mare Jonio on Thursday about 40 miles off the coast of Libya as their rubber boat was sinking. Now, Italy has closed the country’s ports to the boats. Italy’s government has repeatedly accused rescuers of being complicit with people smugglers. The smugglers charge huge amounts of money to help migrants get to Europe.
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The UNHCR has been voicing concerns about the lack of boats to pick up people fleeing Libya. Babar Baloch, the agency’s spokesperson said its a desperate situation. “We have been calling on states to build up search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean, we have been sharing our concern about not having any boats to rescue these people.”