Dozens feared dead after immigrants boat sinks off Libyan shores

Illegal migrants from Africa arrive on shore after being rescued by the Libyan coast guard off the coastal town of Tajoura, 15 km east of the capital Tripoli on Tuesday. | AFP-JIJI

Dozens of people are missing and believed drowned after an inflatable boat carrying more than 100 people sank off the coast of Libya earlier this week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday.

The IOM said the boat began sinking Monday just hours after leaving the North African country. Eighty people were rescued by a passing vessel and handed off to the British military ship the HMS Echo, which is taking part in the European Union’s operation to curb human trafficking in the Mediterranean.

“They don’t know how long it was before help arrived,” IOM spokesperson Flavio Di Giacomo told the French news agency AFP. He said survivors “clung to bits of the dinghy” until night fell and they were rescued.

Sixty people remain missing, the IOM said. The Echo took part in several sea rescues this week and delivered 550 people to the Italian port city of Brindisis Friday.

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