CAIRO/ROME: Doctors Without Borders has said that more than 100 people have died in a shipwreck off the Libyan coast and the remaining survivors are being held in detention in Libya.
The humanitarian organisation said in a Monday news release the shipwreck occurred on Sept. 1 and survivors include people with severe burns, pregnant women and babies. A team from the organisation provided medical care.
The group said two rubber boats left the Libyan coast carrying migrants from Sudan, Mali, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Libya, Algeria and Egypt. One of the boats deflated and sank.
The Libyan Coast Guard recovered 276 survivors from both boats and brought them to the port city of Khoms, Libya, and only two bodies were reportedly recovered.
Libya has emerged as a major transit point to Europe for those fleeing poverty and civil war elsewhere in Africa.
Meanwhile, Italy sharply criticised new UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday after she announced she would send investigators to the country to check reports of racism and violence against migrants.
Hours after Bachelet made her inaugural speech in Geneva on Monday, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who heads the anti-immigrant League party, threatened to cut Italian funding for the United Nations.
On Tuesday, the foreign ministry issued a long statement describing Bachelet’s accusations as “inappropriate, unfounded, unjust”.
Bachelet criticised the government, which is made up of the League and the populist 5-Star Movement, for refusing entry to migrant rescue ships in the Mediterranean operated by private charities.
“This kind of political posturing and other recent developments have devastating consequences for many already vulnerable people,” said Bachelet, a former Chilean president.
Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, has insisted that ships run by non-government organisations should not be allowed to dock in Italian ports. Migrants aboard Italian military ships should not disembark either unless other European Union countries agree to take some in, he has said.