Benghazi – Five migrants died and 16 went missing after their boat sank off the coast of eastern Libya while attempting to reach Europe, authorities said on Tuesday.
A rescue unit official told AFP that the boat with 27 people on board – all Egyptians – capsized off Tolmeta in the east, but without specifying when this happened.
The official said five bodies were recovered and six people rescued. Another 16 were missing and presumed drowned.
“The boat was 35km (19 nautical miles) off the coast in a rocky and hard to reach area, and this hampered rescue efforts,” the source said.
The chaos that erupted after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011 made Libya a preferred stop for tens of thousands of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, Arab states and South Asia, mainly seeking to reach the Italian coast in Europe.
Thousands remain stranded in the lawless North African state.
Human Rights Watch said this month some 32 450 people had been intercepted by Libyan forces last year and “hauled back to arbitrary detention and abuse” in the war-ravaged country as European countries turned a blind eye.
Since the start of the year, 14 157 migrants have been intercepted and dragged back to detention in Libya while trying to cross the Mediterranean, according to the International Organisation for Migration’s latest figures.
The IOM said at least 216 people have died attempting to make the crossing to Europe and 724 are missing and presumed dead.
Picture: Getty Images