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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Scores of Pakistanis feared drowned after migrant boat capsizes off Libya

The number of Pakistanis trying to reach Europe from Libya has been increasing, UN migration agency says

Workers from the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms rescue more than 300 refugees and illegal migrants, mostly from Bangladesh and Eritrea, from an overcrowded wooden boat that set sail from Libya on January 27, 2018. Days later, on February 2, about 90 mostly Pakistani migrants were feared drowned after their boat capsized while trying to reach Europe from Libya. Santi Palacios / AP Photo
Workers from the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms rescue more than 300 refugees and illegal migrants, mostly from Bangladesh and Eritrea, from an overcrowded wooden boat that set sail from Libya on January 27, 2018. Days later, on February 2, about 90 mostly Pakistani migrants were feared drowned after their boat capsized while trying to reach Europe from Libya. Santi Palacios / AP Photo

About 90 people are feared drowned after a smugglers' boat carrying mostly Pakistani migrants capsized off Libya's coast early on Friday, the UN's migration agency said.

Ten bodies have washed ashore near the Libyan town of Zuwara following the tragedy in the early morning, said International Organisation for Migration spokeswoman Olivia Headon, citing information from its partner agencies. Eight were believed to be Pakistani, and two Libyans.

"We are told that two survivors swam to shore, and one person was rescued by a fishing boat," Ms Headon said, speaking from Tunisia's capital to reporters at the UN in Geneva. "We are working to get more details on the [capsize] and where the survivors are so that we can assist them better."

She said Pakistani nationals are increasing among the number of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Italy and Europe via Libya. By nationality, Pakistanis last year made up the 13th largest nationality represented among migrants making the crossing, but they were the third-largest contingent in January.

Ms Headon said the reason for the increasing flow of Pakistanis was not immediately clear, nor whether the greater influx was likely to continue, but added: "We're looking into it."

IOM says 6,624 people crossed the Mediterranean in January — about two-thirds of them to Italy — about a 10 per cent increase from a year earlier. About 250 people died in the crossing in January, six fewer than a year ago.

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