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At least 11 people on Europe-bound boat drown off Libya coast, says UN

A rubber dinghy carrying two dozen migrants capsized off the coast of Libya, according to UN migration agency
Migrants arrive in Tripoli on 29 April 2021 after the coastguard intercepted an boat carrying 99 migrants off its west coast.
Migrants arrive in Tripoli on 29 April 2021 after the coastguard intercepted a boat carrying 99 people off its west coast (AFP)

At least 11 people have drowned after a rubber dinghy carrying two dozen Europe-bound migrants capsized off the coast of Libya, the United Nations migration agency said.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Sunday that the tragedy took place near the western town of Zawiya. The Libyan coast guard saved the lives of 12 people, it said in a Twitter post.

"The continuous loss of life calls for an urgent change in approach to the situation in Libya and the Central Med," the IOM said.

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The deadly incident was the latest case of people drowning while attempting to cross the central Mediterranean Sea route, and comes weeks after at least 130 people were feared dead after their boat capsized off the east coast of Libya.

The North African country has long been a stepping stone for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

There has been a sharp rise in crossings and attempted crossings from Libya in the past several weeks. On Monday, the IOM said more than 800 people had been intercepted at sea and returned to Libya in the last week of April, while 7,000 migrants had been returned to the country since the beginning of 2021.

The IOM has recorded nearly 600 deaths in the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of the year.

Last year also saw an upsurge of makeshift boats attempting to cross the central Mediterranean, the deadliest route for would-be migrants to Europe.

More than 1,400 people either died or went missing in 2020 trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean, the UN has reported.

Last week, the United Nations child welfare agency (Unicef) said a total of 125 children were intercepted at sea this week by Libyan authorities off the Mediterranean coast. Most were taken to detention centres.