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At least 31 dead after migrant boat sinks off Libyan coast

Thousands of migrants have risked the perilous sea journey from Libya to Europe [AFP]

Date of publication: 26 November, 2017

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Libya's coastguard says it has rescued around 200 people after a migrant boat sank off the coast of Tripoli.

At least 31 people died on Saturday after a boat carrying migrants sank off Libya's western coast, officials said.

Around 200 survivors were picked up by Libya's coastguard and brought back to Tripoli.

According to Amer Abdelbari, a coast guard commander quoted by Reuters, the migrants had been travelling on two seperate boats. By the time the coastguard had arived, one of the boats had already sunk, the comander said.

"The boat had sunk and they were spread out in the sea, they were trying to swim towards the coast," he said. "There were about 60 people who we were able to save because they were clinging to the [remains of the] boat." He added that another 140 people were rescued from the second boat.

The coastguard also returned to Tripoli naval base with plastic body bags carrying the remains of those who had drowned. Among the dead were a number of children.

Hailing mainly from sub-Saharan countries, migrants seeking to reach Europe board boats operated by people traffickers in western Libya, and make for the Italian island of Lampedusa 300 kilometres (190 miles) away.

But arrivals in Italy have dropped 69 percent since July, the European country said this week, as a deal with Libya blocks boats and would-be asylum seekers use other routes into Europe.

According to figures published by the International Organisation for Migration earlier this month, about 157,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Europe by sea since January 1, 75 percent of them landing in Italy. Nearly 3,000 died attempting the perilous sea crossing.

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