Scores of migrants feared dead in Mediterranean off coast of Libya

Charity says it rescued 25 people but survivors said up to 60 had already died en route

Migrants are helped off a partially deflated rubber dinghy by rescuers in the central Mediterranean on Wednesday. SOS Mediterranee via AP
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As many as 60 people are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean in the latest deadly incident facing migrants heading to Europe from Libya.

The charity group SOS Mediterranee said it rescued 25 people in a "very weak" condition in co-ordination with the Italian Coastguard on Wednesday and two unconscious survivors were flown to Sicily by helicopter.

Survivors told the group about 60 people had already died before rescuers had found them.

"The survivors departed from Zawiya, Libya, seven days before they were rescued," SOS Mediterranee posted on the social media platform X.

"Their engine broke after three days, leaving their boat lost, adrift without water and food for days. Survivors report that at least 60 people perished on the way, including women and at least one child."

Libya is a common departure point for migrants seeking a better life in Europe but the route across the central Mediterranean is one of the world's most dangerous maritime migration routes.

According to the UN migration agency (IOM), almost 2,500 migrants using it died or went missing last year and 226 since the start of 2024.

The IOM said it was "deeply troubled" by the latest report.

"Urgent action is needed to strengthen maritime patrols and prevent further tragedies," it said on X.

In a post on X on Wednesday, the SOS Mediterranee said its Ocean Viking vessel had evacuated 25 people spotted using binoculars who were on a rubber boat drifting in the Libyan search-and-rescue area.

Italy and other EU governments are trying to curb the number of sea migrants making the crossing from North Africa and have offered money and equipment to Libya and Tunisia in an attempt to prevent departures from their shores.

Data from the Italian Interior Ministry shows 5,968 migrants have arrived by sea so far this year, down from 19,937 at the same stage in 2023.

There was no immediate comment from the Italian Coastguard.

Updated: March 14, 2024, 2:48 PM