Bodies of over 80 African refugees wash up on beach

The bodies of dozens of African refugees have washed ashore in the western Libyan city of Zawiya, humanitarian officials said.

At least 80 bodies were found in Zawiya in the latest tragedy at sea as refugee and migrant deaths reach record levels along the Libya-Italy smuggling route.

Mohammed al-Misrati, a spokesman for Libya’s Red Crescent, said the bodies were found on Monday morning and humanitarian workers retrieved them.

He said a torn rubber boat was found nearby and he expected more bodies to surface as such boats usually carry up to 120 people.

The aid agency posted on its Twitter account photographs of dozens of black and white body bags lined up along the shore.

Mr al-Misrati said local authorities were taking the bodies to a cemetery for unidentified people in the capital Tripoli.

Last week, Fabrice Leggeri, director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, said the Libya-Italy smuggling route across the Mediterranean Sea saw record numbers of migrant drownings last year.

He said the total for the central Mediterranean route was 4,579, which might still be much less than the true figure. That compares with 2,869 deaths in 2015 and 3,161 in 2014.

There is little sign of the surge is abating, even during winter. There were 228 recorded deaths in January, by far the biggest monthly toll in recent years.

Mr Leggeri blamed the use of small dinghies and other poor vessels for the high death rate.

The turmoil engulfing Libya has become a death trap for thousands of refugees, most of them from sub-Saharan African countries, seeking to escape poverty and find a better life in Europe.

Libya, divided under competing governments, is run by militias, many of which profit from smuggling and human trafficking.

Rights groups have documented migrants’ horror journeys involving torture, rape, and forced labour inside Libya.

The country sank into lawlessness after the 2011 uprising that turned into a full-blown civil war which led to the toppling and killing of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Since then, human trafficking has thrived amid the chaos.

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