Two Egyptian migrants dead and 19 missing after boat capsizes off Libya

Migrants appeared to be sailing to Europe to follow thousands fleeing from conflict in Middle East

Tens of thousands of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa, such as these rescued off the Italian Lampedusa island on August 27, attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea every year to reach European shores. AP
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Two people are dead and 19 missing after a boat carrying Egyptian migrants capsized off the Libyan coast, Libya's Department for Combating Illegal Migration said on Monday.

The boat carrying 27 migrants was found at the weekend off the town of Tolmeitha in north-eastern Libya, about 110 kilometres east of Benghazi, the agency said.

At least six migrants survived the shipwreck, two bodies were retrieved and 19 others remained missing and presumed dead, the agency said.

A video posted on the agency’s Facebook page showed rescuers providing drinking water to an exhausted survivor.

The agency said the boat embarked from Egypt and capsized off, Libya but did not say what caused the boat to overturn.

The migrants were apparently sailing to Europe, a destination for thousands fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

It is the latest migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea, which tens of thousands attempt to cross every year in efforts to reach European shores.

Traffickers benefiting from chaos

Libya has in recent years become the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a Nato-backed uprising that toppled and killed long-time autocrat Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the country’s lengthy borders with six nations.

The migrants are then packed into ill-equipped rubber boats and other vessels and set off on risky sea voyages.

In mid-August, dozens of migrants were rounded up in the Libyan capital Tripoli. This came as neighbouring Tunisia said more than 650 migrants were intercepted or rescued trying to reach Europe by sea.

Updated: August 30, 2022, 6:21 AM