KHUMS, Libya (Reuters) -The bodies of more than a dozen migrants who drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe washed up on Libya’s coastline late on Saturday, its interior ministry and the local Red Crescent said.
Libya is a major transit point for migrants, many from African countries, who are seeking better opportunities in Europe.
Mohamed Abushaala, the head of the Red Crescent in Khums, a port in western Libya, said 15 bodies including that of an infant had been recovered from the shore at nearby Alous on Saturday. He said three survivors had said there were 35 people in total on their boat, which had sunk.
He said a separate figure released on social media of 17 bodies, along with another 10 found on a different beach, was incorrect.
“They were at sea for approximately one day,” said Osama al-Saket, head of the Khums hospital that received the bodies following calls from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and police authorities.
“The bodies were still intact … there were 14 of them, along with one small baby,” added al-Saket.
The Interior Ministry later said 14 bodies had been recovered from a group of 60 people believed missing at sea.
It was not clear from the statements if they were all referring to the same group and interior ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.
Larger numbers of people have been trying to cross the Mediterranean this year after several years of reduced numbers since 2015. About 1,500 have drowned in 2021, the United Nations migration agency IOM said last week.
The agency’s Missing Migrants Project has designated the Central Mediterranean route as the deadliest known migration route in the world, with more than 17,000 recorded deaths and disappearances since 2014.
Photographs released by the Khums Red Crescent showed a line of bodies laid out along a beach as workers put them into bags.
(Reporting by Reuters Libya newsroom, writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)