GENEVA – About 90 people are feared drowned after a smuggler’s boat carrying mostly Pakistani migrants capsized off Libya’s coast early Friday, the U.N.’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.
“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 U.N. in Geneva. “We are working to get more details on the (capsizing) and where the survivors are so that we can assist them better.”
Initially, the Libyan coast guard said a patrol it sent out found no signs of a capsized boat, survivors, or drowned migrants. But late at night, it cited a statement from officials in Zuwara who said that 13 bodies had been found, all Pakistani except for one Libyan woman.
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.
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