Children among the dead in latest migrant boat tragedy

  • 26/11/2017
Bags containing bodies of migrants who died when a boat sank off Libya's western coast, are seen in Tripoli
Bags containing bodies of migrants who died when a boat sank off Libya's western coast, are seen in Tripoli. Photo credit: Reuters

At least 31 migrants have died after their boat sank off Libya's western coast and about 200 others were picked up by the coastguard to be brought back to port in Tripoli, officials say.

The migrants were on two boats off the coast near Garabulli, east of Tripoli, one of which had already sunk when the coastguard arrived at the scene on Saturday, said Abu Ajala Amer Abdelbari, a coast guard commander.

"The boat had sunk and they were spread out in the sea, they were trying to swim towards the coast," he said. "There were about 60 people who we were able to save because they were clinging to the (remains of the) boat." Another 140 migrants were picked up from the second boat, he said.

The dead, including a number of children, were brought back to Tripoli naval base where they were unloaded in white plastic body bags.

Meanwhile Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara has called on the International Criminal Court on Saturday to indict criminals who are selling black African migrants in Libyan slave markets.

His comments followed a worldwide outcry over footage aired by CNN that seemed to show men being auctioned as farm hands in Libya, after being smuggled across the Sahara.

The report was embarrassing to Libya, but also to Europe, which has increasingly been relying on Libyan security forces and allied militias to prevent migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.

"I'm shocked. I think it's unacceptable, disgusting," Mr Ouattara said in an interview on France 24's English service.

"Those who commit such crimes in my view should ... be pursued by the ICC. ... Condemning is not enough."

Some West African countries have recalled their ambassadors to Libya over the reports. Libya's UN-backed government said on Thursday it was investigating the reports.