GENEVA (Reuters) – Twenty migrants are thought to have drowned off the coast of Libya in a shipwreck this week, the United Nations migration agency said on Friday, as bodies from an earlier accident continued to wash ashore.
The second shipwreck, a wooden boat that left from the coastal town of Surman, west of the capital Tripoli, brings the total from the two incidents to at least 94, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration said.
The earlier accident involved a rubber dinghy that left from the town of Khums and capsized on Thursday.
“Staff in the region reported that more bodies continued to wash ashore overnight,” Safa Msehli told a Geneva briefing. Fisherman and the coast guard had earlier recovered 31 bodies from the first wreck, including a toddler.
Survivors are being held in the city of Khums, she added, calling on authorities to release them and provide protection to prevent them falling into the hands of smugglers and traffickers. Their nationality was not specified.
“The worsening humanitarian conditions of migrants detained in overcrowded centres, widespread arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, and extortion and abuse are alarming,” she said.
More than 900 people have died this year attempting the Mediterranean crossing to reach Europe. Thousands more have been stopped at sea and returned to Libya where they are often vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)