Migrants’ bodies will take days to surface - GulfToday

Migrants’ bodies will take days to surface

Migrants

Rescued migrants wait at a Red Crescent centre in Zarzis on Saturday. Associated Press

The head of Tunisia’s Red Crescent says the bodies of dozens of migrants who drowned trying to reach Europe from Libya will take days to surface.

Mongi Slim said on Saturday that around 75 migrants left the Libyan city Zouara aboard a boat that capsized on Friday. Of those, Mongi said, only 16 survived after being rescued by a Tunisian fishing boat. He said the 14 Bangladeshis, a Moroccan and an Egyptian are receiving care from the UN refugee agency in Medenine, a southern Tunisian city.

Slim estimated that around 55 bodies are still unaccounted-for - nationals of Bangladesh, Egypt, Morocco and unspecified countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The International Organisation for Migration called it the deadliest migrant boat sinking since January.

Around 60 migrants most of them from Bangladesh have died after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea after it left Libya for Italy, the Tunisian Red Crescent said on Saturday.

Survivors told the Red Crescent the tragedy unfolded after some 75 people who had left Zuwara on the northwestern Libyan coast late on Thursday on a large boat were transferred to a smaller one that sank off Tunisia.

“The migrants were transferred into a smaller inflatable boat which was overloaded, and 10 minutes later it sank,” Mongi Slim, a Red Crescent official in the southern Tunisian town of Zarzis, said.

The survivors said they spent eight hours trapped in the cold sea before they were spotted by the fishermen who alerted the Tunisian coastguard, Slim said.

The bodies of three people were plucked out of the waters on Friday, the Tunisian defence ministry said.

Survivors said the boat was heading to Italy and had on board only men, 51 from Bangladesh, as well as three Egyptians, several Moroccans, Chadians and other Africans.

Fourteen Bangladeshi nationals, including a minor, were among the survivors, said the Red Crescent.

“If the Tunisian fishermen hadn’t seen them (migrants), there wouldn’t have been any survivors and we would have never known about this” boat sinking, said Slim.

Charity ships have plied the Mediterranean Sea to rescue migrants in large numbers but the number of rescue operations have dwindled as these vessels have come under fire, namely from the populist Italian government, over their action.

Agencies