CAIRO (AP) - Two women and three children drowned when a boat carrying dozens of Europe-bound migrants capsized off Libya, a U.N. official said Wednesday. It was the latest shipwreck involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe.
Safa Msehli, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, said the incident took place late Tuesday. A fishing boat and Libya’s coast guard managed to rescue some 77 migrants and returned them to shore, she said.
A total of 400 migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya late Tuesday and taken to detention centers in the North African country, Msehli said. At least 480 migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya over the weekend, according to the IOM.
Tuesday’s deadly shipwreck was the latest along the Central Mediterranean migration route. More than 55 migrants were reported dead last month off Libya.
Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. Over the last several years, hundreds of thousands of migrants have reached Europe either on their own or after being rescued at sea.
Thousands have drowned along the way. Others were intercepted and returned to Libya to be left at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers that lack adequate food and water, according to rights groups.
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