From File: The Libyan coast guard has intercepted and returned thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean, despite claims Libya is not a safe port | Photo: IOM
From File: The Libyan coast guard has intercepted and returned thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean, despite claims Libya is not a safe port | Photo: IOM

The Libyan coast guard has intercepted nearly 1,000 migrants and brought them back to shore in the past 48 hours, according to the IOM. The UN agency says they face the risk of "arbitrary detention."

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Monday that nearly 1,000 migrants had been intercepted and returned to Libya by the coast guard and coastal security in the past 48 hours.

Around 500 people were reportedly picked up on Sunday night, according to the IOM's spokesperson in Geneva, Safa Msehli.

Earlier, the IOM reported that 310 migrants were intercepted off the Libyan coast on Saturday. An additional 173 were returned on Sunday.

The migrants intercepted by the Libyan coast guard in the Mediterranean over the past two days bring the number of people brought back to Libya this year to around 5,000.

The IOM has repeated its objection to the treatment of migrants inside Libya. "We maintain that Libya is not a safe port," it tweeted. "Arbitrary detention must end."

Fatal crossings continue

Over the past decade Libya has become a main transit point for migrants from Africa and the Middle East hoping to reach Europe. The sea route across the central Mediterranean is highly dangerous, as boats making the crossing are often overcrowded and unsafe. In recent years, the European Union has supported Libya's coast guard and other local groups to prevent the sea crossings.

Migrants who are picked up by the Libyan coast guard and returned to Libya are regularly held in detention centers where they are subjected to abuse, torture and extortion.

On January 19, a boat carrying migrants heading for Europe capsized off the Libyan coast and at least 43 people drowned. The IOM said all of those who died were men from West Africa.

The migrants' deaths were the first recorded in the Mediterranean this year. On March 18, at least 60 migrants lost their lives in a shipwreck off the coast near the Libyan town of Zuwara.

In February, the new Libyan government said that migration was beyond its control and not among its priorities.

With AP

 

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