Ten migrants die on sinking boat adrift for 13 hours off Libya coast

'Geo Barents' rescue ship pulled 99 people from the sinking boat

Ten bodies were found on board an overcrowded, unseaworthy boat as humanitarian aid workers rescued 99 people from the vessel off the coast of Libya.

The 10 appeared to have suffocated on fuel fumes after being adrift at sea for 13 hours, Doctors without Borders (MSF) said.

“At the bottom of the overcrowded wooden boat, 10 people were found dead,” the medical charity tweeted.

MSF said they were “10 avoidable deaths”, adding: “How can we accept this in 2021?”

The charity's Geo Barents rescue ship pulled 99 people from the sinking boat on Tuesday before finding the bodies on the lower deck.

MSF later said it took two hours to transfer the bodies to the Geo Barents, where they will be kept pending a dignified burial.

Tens of thousands of people seek to enter Europe each year on the central Mediterranean, leaving from Libya and Tunisia and heading most often for Italy.

But the route is deadly – 1,236 people have died on the central Mediterranean so far this year, compared with 858 in the same period for 2020, said Flavio Di Giacomo of the UN's International Organisation for Migration.

The boat was the third attended in 24 hours by Geo Barents in waters around Libya and Malta. The charity vessel has 186 people on board, including 61 minors.

They are from countries including Guinea, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Somalia and Syria, and set off from Libya, the charity said.

“On a day like this, when we bring 10 corpses on board our ship, we are once again witnessing Europe's unwillingness to guarantee a desperately needed system of search and rescue in the central Mediterranean,” said Caroline Willemen, MSF mission head on board the Geo Barents.

Ms Willemen said the survivors, some of whom had travelled for hours with the bodies of their dead friends and relatives, urgently needed a safe haven to disembark.

Updated: November 18th 2021, 1:01 AM