Hundreds of Fleeing Migrants Returned to War-Torn Libya


About 85 other migrants were arrested earlier by the Libyan coastguard, bringing to more than 1,000 the number of people who have attempted the crossing this month.

The IOM's estimated death toll among migrants who have tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea since 2014 surpassed 20,000.The IOM’s estimated death toll among migrants who have tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea since 2014 surpassed 20,000. | Photo: AFP

25 May 2020 (teleSUR)* — Libya’s coastguard has intercepted hundreds of migrants in five boats attempting to cross the Mediterranean over the weekend, the United Nations migration agency (IOM) said Monday [25 May 2020].
A spokeswoman for the U.N. agency Safa Msehli said the refugees and asylum seekers had been taken to the al-Nasser detention facility in the town of Zawya, west of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

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The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said two people on the boats intercepted had drowned. Their bodies were recovered at sea, it added.

About 85 other migrants were arrested earlier by the Libyan coastguard, bringing to more than 1,000 the number of people who have attempted the crossing this month despite the closure of Libya’s international borders due to the coronavirus.

Mselhi said departures from Libya have increased, which is “especially worrying amid a sharp decrease in … search and rescue capacity.”

Since the outbreak, major maritime rescue charities, such as Ocean Viking and Sea-Watch, have halted migrant rescue operations, while travel disruptions have forced the U.N. refugee and migration agencies to stop their resettlement flights for the most vulnerable people.

The North African country, which descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gadaffi, has emerged as a major transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe.

The IOM said last month its estimated death toll among migrants who have tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea since 2014 surpassed 20,000, as most make the journey in ill-equipped and unsafe rubber boats.

In recent years, the European Union has partnered with the coastguard and other Libyan forces to intercept the migrants. Rights groups say the move has left many at the mercy of brutal armed groups or confined in squalid and overcrowded detention centers in the war-torn country.

The pandemic and the fighting around Libya’s capital Tripoli have added to the plight for the thousands of migrants in Libya.

For migrants trapped in this desperate situation, life has never been so difficult InfoMigrants reported earlier this month, as concerns about the situation in detention centers are high.

“We trained the guards and the migrants on barrier gestures and prevention measures, but that has its limits because social distancing is not easy when people are crammed 500 in a cell,” head of mission of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Libya Sacha Petiot had told InfoMigrants.

The medical NGO ensures that the centers are provided with soap and water, but no one knows what can be done if a case of COVID-19 is detected.

According to Libya researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW), Hanan Salah, there is no doubt that these centers should be closed.

“The health of many of the detainees is not good. People have respiratory diseases, chronic diseases, there are pregnant women, children. There is a very high risk for people in detention,” she said.

The situation is even worse now for the thousands of migrants being held in detention centers without any assistance from NGOs. Their numbers have increased in recent weeks. “Trafficking groups are taking advantage of the current situation to increase their activities,” said Msehli.

“The situation for migrants in Libya is worse than it has ever been,” she said.

teleSUR English@telesurenglish

and call for ceasefire in .

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*SOURCE: teleSUR. Go to ORIGINAL.

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