Reports from Libya confirmed Friday that 23 Somalis and three Eritreans being smuggled through the north African country died when a vehicle they were in overturned.
The dead included youths and women heading to Tripoli with the ultimate goal of reaching Europe by means of usually treacherous sea voyages.
According to the Somali Ambassador to Libya, Abdigani Mohamed Wa’ays, a trailer carrying about 120 Somalis who were being sneaked into the Libyan capital had an accident.
“The truck reportedly left the road and then overturned,” the ambassador told the media on being contacted, citing preliminary police reports.
He said because the migrants being smuggled were illegal, drivers often avoid safer roads which have checkpoints.
The lorry was said to be carrying cement, aggravating the accident.
Mr Mohamed Abdi Nahar, a correspondent working with Shabelle, an independent broadcaster in Mogadishu, reported from Tripoli that in the past smugglers covered people being trafficked with grass.
“Since the police noticed the use of grass as a cover, smugglers turned to hiding the people being smuggled under a ceiling of cement and other goods,” said the reporter.
He added that the fatality count in the latest tragedy would have been less had grass been used as a cover.
While those who were injured were taken to hospital, 58 survivors were in prison, according to the Somali diplomat.
He added that the total number of Somalis involved in the deadly incident were 120.
In April, Ambassador Wa’ays told Shabelle Radio that Somali immigrants in that country were facing appalling living conditions after they left home due to conflict in the Horn of Africa country.
But, despite alarming boat incidents and hardship in the desert, many Somalis continue to venture into Libya, hoping to reach Europe, particularly Italy. They often dangerously sail in overcrowded tiny boats.
UNHCR and other agencies periodically report African immigrants including Somalis perishing in the Mediterranean Sea.