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UN: 90 Migrants Feared Drowned After Boat Capsizes Off Libya

UN: 90 Migrants Feared Drowned After Boat Capsizes Off LibyaUN: 90 Migrants Feared Drowned After Boat Capsizes Off Libya

About 90 people are feared drowned after a smugglers’ boat carrying mostly Pakistani migrants capsized off Libya’s coast early Friday, the UN’s migration agency said.

Ten bodies have washed ashore near the Libyan town of Zuwara following the tragedy in the early morning, said International Organization for Migration spokeswoman Olivia Headon, citing information from its partner agencies, AP reported.

“We are told that two survivors swam to shore, and one person was rescued by a fishing boat,” Headon said by phone from Tunisia’s capital to reporters at the UN in Geneva. “We are working to get more details on the (capsizing) and where the survivors are so that we can assist them better.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said 11 of its citizens had drowned in the incident. Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal told The Associated Press that Pakistani diplomats reached Libya’s coastal area to collect more details and begin the process of repatriating the bodies of the deceased.

Headon said Pakistani nationals are increasing among the number of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Italy and Europe via Libya. By nationality, Pakistanis last year made up the 13th largest nationality represented among migrants making the crossing, but they were the third-largest contingent in January.

Headon said the reason for the increasing flow of Pakistanis wasn’t immediately clear, nor whether the greater influx is likely to continue, but added, “We’re looking into it.”

IOM says 6,624 people crossed the Mediterranean in January—about two-thirds of them to Italy—about a 10-percent increase from a year earlier. About 250 people died in the crossing in January, six fewer than a year ago.

Drownings in the Mediterranean began surging in 2013 as Europe's worst migration crisis since World War II began picking up speed, with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Over the past five years, more than 16,000 people have died trying to make the perilous crossing to Europe, according to IOM numbers.

Excluding Friday's tragedy, 246 migrants and refugees have already died trying to cross the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year, compared to 254 casualties during the first month of 2017.

Two hundred and eighteen of the deaths this year occurred on the central route, IOM said, while 28 happened on the western route that links North Africa to Spain.

The EU last year reached controversial agreements with chaos-wracked Libya to stem the flow of migrants from that country, following a more comprehensive deal with Turkey in 2016, which sharply reduced the numbers crossing to Greece.

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