60-Plus Migrants Perish in Central Mediterranean After Engine Failure

Migrant dinghy rescue
Courtesy SOS Mediterranee

Published Mar 14, 2024 3:22 PM by The Maritime Executive

At least 60 maritime migrants have died after going adrift in the Central Mediterranean, according to aid group SOS Mediterranee. 

The NGO reports that it rescued 25 survivors from a rubber raft on Wednesday, with assistance from the Italian coast guard. Two additional migrants were unconscious in the raft and were medevaced, but died after their rescue. 

The group had departed Zawiya, Libya the week before. Three days into their voyage, their raft's engine broke down, and their boat drifted for days without food or water. About 60 died, including one woman and one child. All the survivors were men from Subsaharan Africa. 

Two unconscious survivors were medevaced to Sicily by helicopter, but they did not recover (SOS Mediterranee

"We are deeply troubled by news of a shipwreck in the Central Med," said the UN's migration agency in a statement. "Urgent action is needed to strengthen maritime patrols and prevent further tragedies." 

SOS Mediterranee noted that at the time of the rescue , its lawyers were in court in Brindisi, Italy, where the authoritiees arrested their rescue ship in February. Italy's government opposes NGO migrant rescue operations and has taken steps to block them, to include vessel detentions and fines. Three rescue vessels are currently blocked from operating, and SOS Mediterranee questions whether these measures are consistent with Italy's constitution and with international maritime law.