592 rescued migrants off the Libyan coast in two days

5 Feb 2017

592 rescued migrants off the Libyan coast in two days

Libya - On Friday and Saturday (3 - 4 February), four rescue-at-sea operations were conducted, resulting in the rescue of 592 migrants off western Libya.

On Friday, 300 migrants (265 men, 30 women and five children—including one new-born) were rescued off Az Zawiyah. The survivors were from Sierra Leone, Gambia and Nigeria.

On Saturday, 113 migrants were rescued off Tripoli, including 98 men, 10 women and five children from several African countries. The migrants came from Ghana (22 men), Nigeria (18 men, 7 women, at least one of them pregnant), Senegal (19 men), Cote d’Ivoire (14 men), Sierra Leone (nine men, one woman), Benin (one family of three men, one woman and four children), the Gambia (nine men), Liberia (two men), Niger (one man), Burkina Faso (one man) and Mali (one new born child and one woman). The migrants were taken to the Triq Al Shook detention centre.

Also on Saturday, 118 migrants – 37 women, of whom one was pregnant, three children (one-month, two years and three years) and 78 men from Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Cote d’Ivoire were rescued off Zuwara. IOM is coordinating medical assistance with the Libyan Red Crescent and an NGO medical partner – STACO.

In addition, as well on Saturday, 61 migrants were rescued off Az Zawiyah. The rescued included 26 men from Bangladesh, 26 men of different African nationalities (most from the Gambia), seven women from different African countries, two of whom are pregnant, and two children. One of the pregnant women was taken to a nearby hospital.

Witnesses said their rubber boat started its journey to Italy in Subratah, but apparently left without a compass, GPS or satellite phone. After about six hours, the boat started to take in water and began to sink. Survivors say they spotted a helicopter. But despite people waving and screaming for help, it disappeared. People then started falling into the water.

“I saw three children, aged 3-5 years old, sinking and I wasn't able to rescue them because they sank and disappeared too fast,” explained a 30-year-old man from Nigeria. He said that only people wearing life vests survived. He did not know how many lost their lives at sea.

IOM has visited Triq Al Shook and is in the process of distributing non-food items and hygiene kits, including blankets and clothes, and is coordinating with partners to assist with medical support. IOM’s protection team has also visited the detention centre and is in the process of conducting vulnerability assessments to identify the needs of the most vulnerable migrants.

So far in 2017, 1,401 migrants have been rescued off the Libyan coast and 42 bodies have been retrieved in Subratah, Zuwara, Tripoli and Tajoura.

For further information, please contact IOM Libya. Othman Belbeisi, Tel: +216 29 600389, Email: obelbeisi@iom.int or Maysa Khalil, Tel: +216 29 600388, Email: mkhalil@iom.int