Tripoli, 6 July 2013:
Three migrants with gunshot wounds rescued off the coast of Malta last week were apparently fired at when fleeing a Libyan detention centre, before setting sail in an overcrowded vessel headed for Europe.
Seven people were hospitalised after a leaking dingy, carrying 290 migrants, was spotted some 64 miles of the coast of Malta. French press agency AFP reported an official as saying that initial investigations suggested that the three with gunshot wounds had been shot when they escaped from a detention centre in Libya. The wounds could apparently be up to ten days old.
It is not known at which Libyan detention centre the migrants may have been held.
The United Nations Refugee Agency UNHCR has estimated that some 8,400 migrants and asylum-seekers have landed on the shores of Italy and Malta so far this year. It is believed that around 6,700 of these set sail from North Africa, principally Libya.
UNHCR has recorded at least 40 migrant deaths, based on information given by others who survived the dangerous Mediterranean crossing. Others may have been lost without trace. Earlier this year, the Libyan Coastguard retrieved an empty dinghy floating off the coast of Tripoli. Abandoned possessions, including cash, identity documents and mobile phones, led the coastguard to suspect that the vessel’s occupants had a tragic end.
The ongoing efforts of Italy, Malta and Libya to rescue boats in distress in the Mediterranean have been welcomed by UNCHR. It has called on all states to continue to fulfil their obligations under international refugee law and laws of the sea.