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The First Migrant Tragedy of the Year

At least 43 migrants and refugees have been killed in a shipwreck off the coast of Libya, the first tragic event of 2021 in the Central Mediterranean where more than 17,000 have drowned since 2014. In a joint statement released on Wednesday, the IOM and UNHCR said the boat sailed from the city of Zawiya in the early hours of Tuesday and reportedly sank due to bad weather just a few hours later. The statement added that 10 survivors – mainly from Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and The Gambia – were brought back to land by Libyan authorities. Libya acts as a major gateway for African migrants and refugees hoping to reach Europe. The conflict in the country drives the people to the sea. The Central Mediterranean route is described by the UNHCR as the most dangerous migration route in the world – one in six people who depart the shores of North Africa dies. Human smugglers based in Libya launch vessels, many of them flimsy rubber dinghies or rickety fishing boats, crowded with migrants who hope to reach European shores to seek asylum.