UNHCR says up to 150 people may have died in shipwreck off Libya

Migrants stuck in a boat waiting for rescue. [Courtesy]
Up to 150 people are feared to have died in a shipwreck off the coast of Libya, while another 150 were rescued and are being returned to Libya, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Thursday.

Libya is a hub for migrants, many of whom try to reach Europe in unseaworthy boats.

UNHCR and other U.N. agencies have repeatedly called for survivors not to be returned to Libya, a conflict zone where rescued migrants and refugees are routinely jailed in inhumane conditions.

The ship left Libya from Al Khoms, a town 120 km east of Tripoli. There were around 300 people traveling, according to the first available accounts from survivors, but it was unclear if one or two vessels were involved.

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The survivors were picked up by local fishermen and then returned to the coast by Libyan coastguard, UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley said.

If confirmed, the number of dead would be the highest for a shipwreck in the Mediterranean this year.

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LibyaU.N. refugeeUNHCRMigrants