At least 90 migrants, mostly Pakistanis, lost their lives off the coast of Libya on Friday after their boat capsized, according to press reports. The victims were dreaming to reach Italy but their vessel, owned by smugglers, sank adding a new tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea.
According to IOM Libya’s Olivia Headon, 10 bodies washed up on Libyan shores. Two survivors are reported to have swam to shore, while another was rescued by a fishing boat.
This new tragedy brings to 246 the total number of deaths recorded in the Mediterranean Sea during the first month of 2018. In 2017, the 3,138 Pakistani migrants arriving by sea to Italy from Libya were 13th in the overall list of migrant arrivals (119,369). This year though, they already are the third highest nationality so far, with an estimated 240 reaching Italy in January.
In 2017, about 119,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Italy from across the Mediterranean and, according to the International Organization for Migration, more than 3,100 died making the crossing.
In 2016, 181,000 made it to Italy wherein Migration has become a key issue in the country’s election campaign, with voters due to go to the polls on March 4.
Major parties, including Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the Right-wing League, formerly the Northern League, have said Italy can no longer accept such high numbers and have called for hundreds of thousands of migrants already in the country to be sent home.
Libya is a hotbed for human traffickers, whose networks thrived due to the chaos prevailing in the North African country since the fall of the regime of former ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
According to Amnesty International, hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain.
Tens of thousands are held in overcrowded detention centers, suffering abuse, ill-treatment and even slavery.