Migrant Bodies Wash Ashore in Libya as Smugglers' Tactics Get 'More Disastrous'

Migrant Bodies Wash Ashore in Libya as Smugglers' Tactics Get 'More Disastrous'

A spokesman for the Libyan Red Crescent - the country's Red Cross - said the bodies were retrieved by its workers.

According to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 270 people migrating are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean in the first weeks of 2017.

January 2017 saw 288 migrants perish en route to Europe, the highest monthly toll seen since the 2011 uprising that drove Libya into chaos and turned the country into a death trap for the many sub-Saharan Africans seeking to escape conflict, starvation or poverty.

"Based on a humanitarian call from locals to our branch, a group of volunteers headed to Al-Zawiya beach and recovered 74 bodies", The Libyan Red Crescent posted on its Facebook page. Some of the images showed a semi-deflated grey rubber boat of the kind typically provided by migrant smugglers, with wooden boards inserted to reinforce the floor, pulled up half-way onto the beach close by. "Traffickers reportedly stole the engine and left it to drift", the agency said.

Migrant deaths have risen to record levels along the Libya-Italy smuggling route across the Mediterranean Sea. Al-Misrati said the bodies would be taken to a cemetery for unidentified people in the capital, Tripoli.

Since then, hundreds of people have been plucked from the waters north of the African nation, including 700 on January 30 alone off the western city of Sabratha.

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Libya has emerged as a popular but highly unsafe route to Europe for migrants fleeing poverty and civil war in Africa.

In the absence of an army or a regular police force in Libya, several militias act as coastguards but are often accused themselves of complicity or even involvement in the people-smuggling business.

Most depart from the stretch of Libyan coast between Tripoli and the Tunisian border to the west.

Europeans are considering measures aimed at blocking the arrival of thousands of migrants, alarming NGOs which fear that those stranded in Libya may suffer mistreatment.

Libya was plunged into turmoil by the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and has since emerged as a popular, if extremely risky, route to Europe for those fleeing poverty and civil war elsewhere in Africa.

The head of Doctors Without Borders, Arjan Hehenkamp, says the European Union plan shows that it is "delusional about just how risky the situation in Libya really is".