Libyan authorities have arrested the main suspect in the murder of 30 migrants last year. The migrants, mostly Bangladeshis, were killed last May in the city of Mezdah, south of Libya's capital Tripoli.
One of the main suspects in the murder ten months ago of 26 Bangladeshis and four migrants of African origin was arrested on Monday, according to authorities in Tripoli.
In May 2020, 30 migrants were murdered and eleven others were wounded in a revenge attack which was allegedly carried out by the family of a people smuggler who had been killed by migrants.
The massacre took place in May in the city of Mezdah (also Mizdah), more than 150 kilometers south of Libya's capital.
A 23-year-old suspect, whose identity was not revealed, was arrested in Gharyan, around 100 kilometers southwest of the capital, the government's interior ministry said in a statement. "[He] confessed his crime" under questioning, it added.
Speaking with the AFP news agency, Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha said: "Just after the tragic attack of May 2020, I ordered the local authorities in Mezdah to issue arrest warrants against those responsible for the murders."
"The arrest of the main suspect is a major victory," he said, calling it "proof" that such crimes could not be committed with impunity in Libya.
Smuggling route from Bangladesh
The killing of the migrants last May provoked outrage in Bangladesh; it demanded that Libyan authorities investigate the murders, bring the perpetrators to account and compensate the relatives of the dead.
A Bangladeshi accused of heading a trafficking ring with "links to international traffickers implicated in this incident" was arrested in Dhaka in June last year.
Police said the ringleader had sent about 400 Bangladeshis to Libya in the past decade, the Reuters news agency reported on June 19, 2020.
The incident highlighted the smuggling and trafficking of young people from Bangladesh via Libya and across the Mediterranean towards Europe.
Last year the UN migration agency, IOM, estimated that there were about 21,000 Bangladeshi migrants in Libya, accounting for about 3% of the migrant population, according to Reuters.
The IOM also said migrants from Bangladesh reported paying more than €2,600 on average per person for the journey to Libya, more than migrants from any other country.
Instability following the 2011 overthrow of dictator Gaddafi have made Libya an important transit destination for migrants from Asia, East Africa and the Sahel seeking to reach Europe. Several thousand remain stranded in very difficult conditions in Libya.
The Libyan Government of National Unity which took office in February has said that migration is beyond its control and its focus will be on reconciliation and preparing for elections later this year.
Migrants, including thousands of Bangladeshis, continue to attempt the Central Mediterranean crossing by boat. According to data from the UN refugee agency UNHCR, from the beginning of 2020 to January 31, 2021, Bangladesh nationals were the second-largest group of sea arrivals in Italy (4,144 people) after Tunisians (13,062 people).
Many of those who try to cross die en route. The IOM's Missing Migrants Project, which tracks deaths along migratory routes, reports 185 dead or missing migrants on the Central Mediterranean route this year to March 2, the highest number since 2018.