More than ninety migrants feared drowned off Libyan coast

 UN's migration agency says, at least ninety migrants are thought to have drowned off the Libyan coast, after a boat capsized.

According to accounts given by survivors, most of those feared drowned were Pakistanis. Pakistanis were increasingly making the treacherous journey to Italy, a spokesperson said.

Libya has become a common route migrants use when trying to crossover to Europe by sea.
Vessels by smugglers are often not seaworthy, with many cramped into it.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in a statement said "Ten bodies are reported to have washed up on Libyan shores". While Pakistanis remain 13th on a list of nationality trying to crossover Europe last year, it has so far this year climbed to third spot, said the IOM.

Last year saw the EU agree a controversial deal that will provide assistance through funding and training to Libyan coastguard in order to tackle the influx of vessels bringing migrants and refugees to Italy. The EU agreement was immediately called an inhuman approach by some Aid agencies and the UN, saying migrants often face extreme hardship and abuse in Libya, including forced labour.

This year, the IOM reports an increase in the number of arrivals to Europe by sea from last year's 5,983 to 6,624 in the same period of 2017. 246 migrants are believed missing or dead in 2018. Over 600,000 people are believed to have successfully arrived Italy from Libya in the past four years.

IOM spokeswoman Olivia Headon at a press briefing in Tunis said “They have given an estimate of 90 people who drowned during the capsize, but we still need to verify the exact number of people who lost their lives during the tragedy,” adding, “What has been reported to us is that it’s mostly Pakistanis who were on board the boat, but we still need to verify the nationalities and how many from what country.”

“I believe the Libyan coastguard is looking for other survivors off the coast,” Headon added.

Another IOM spokesman, Leonard Doyle, said that the boat which capsized early on Friday morning was believed to have left the shores Libya on Thursday.

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