At least 30 people, including women and children, are feared dead after a flimsy dinghy sank in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya’s coast, medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Wednesday.
The rubber boat sank while attempting the deadly central Mediterranean Sea route from North Africa to Europe, where many migrants dream of starting a new life.
An MSF rescue ship reached the boat and managed to rescue dozens of other migrants, the charity said.
A pregnant woman died on board the rescue ship Geo Barents, and the missing migrants include five women and eight children, MSF said.
Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.
Human traffickers have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling migrants across the country’s lengthy borders with six nations. The migrants are then packed into ill-equipped flimsy boats and set off on risky sea voyages.
Among the rescued migrants from the sinking on Monday was a woman who lost her child in the incident and another one who said she lost two children, the charity said.
Three people on board needed emergency care, including a 4-month-old baby, and they were taken to Malta.
“The survivors are exhausted; many have ingested large amounts of seawater and multiple people suffered from hypothermia after spending many hours in the water,” said Stephanie Hofstetter, the MSF medical team leader on board.
The charity has called for Italian and Maltese authorities to determine a port of safety to allow the survivors to disembark.
The loss of life is the latest tragedy at sea involving migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean from the North African nation.
“This is an example of what happens weekly, if not daily in the Central Mediterranean,” said Safa Msehli, a spokeswoman for the International Organisation for Migration. “The lack of active monitoring and search and rescue by state actors makes it extremely difficult for us to have the full picture.”
In recent years, the European Union has co-operated with Libyan authorities to prevent the crossings in policies criticised by rights groups.