Migrants rescued from shipwreck off Libya await their fate

KHOMS: Traumatised African migrants plucked from the sea silently awaited their fate on Friday, as a Libyan fisherman said the waters were full of floating bodies after the latest boat sinking in the Mediterranean.
In one of the deadliest shipwrecks this year in the Mediterranean, 145 migrants were rescued but scores of others were feared drowned after their flimsy boat went down off Khoms, 120 kilometres east of Tripoli.
Despite the high number of those missing, estimated at more than 110 by the International Organization for Migration (OIM), the Libyan coast guard does not have the capabilities to launch a high seas search.
“There were bodies floating on the surface of the water where the boat went down” on Thursday, said one of the fishermen who were the first on the scene to rescue survivors.
Libyan navy spokesman General Ayoub Kacem said most of the rescued migrants were from Eritrea, although Palestinians and Sudanese were also among the group waiting to be taken on to reception centres.
In general, humanitarian agencies provide medical care and food for survivors, who are then transported to Libyan detention centres.
About 30 young migrants were squatted on a concrete floor under a metal-roofed structure as shelter from the scorching sun, while women used a mobile home to recover after having spent more than six hours in the water.
Nearby, a single Libyan Red Crescent body bag marked the only victim recovered so far from the tragedy.
“Because we don’t have the means, we’ll have to wait for the sea to return the bodies so we can pick them up,” a member of the coast guard said, asking not to be named.
One of the survivors, Abdallah Osman, recounted how their boat started taking on water about 90 minutes after setting out to sea hoping to reach Europe.
“The Egyptian captain decided to turn back,” he said. A passing ship saw that their boat was in distress but took no action, said the 28-year-old Eritrean.
 — AFP