Despite covid-19 pandemic, 400 African migrants arrested en route Europe
London, May 25, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Libya’s coast guard intercepted about 400 Europe-bound migrants off the country’s Mediterranean coast over the past two days, and brought them to the capital of Tripoli from where they were taken to a detention center, the UN migration agency said Monday.
Safa Msehli, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration said the migrants were taken to the al-Nasser detention center in the town of Zawya, west of Tripoli, she said.
Mselhi said departures from Libya have increased, which is “especially worrying amid a sharp decrease in … search and rescue capacity.”
Rescued migrants sit on the coast of Khoms, some 100 kilometers from the Libyan capital Tripoli, on July 26, 2019. (File photo: AFP)
Libya, which descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, has emerged as a major transit point for African and Arab migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe.
Most migrants make the perilous journey in ill-equipped and unsafe rubber boats. The IOM said last month that its estimated death toll among migrants who have tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea since 2014 has surpassed 20,000.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, major maritime rescue charities, such as Ocean Viking and Sea-Watch, have suspended migrant rescue operations. Also, travel disruptions have forced the UN refugee and migration agencies to halt their resettlement flights for the most vulnerable people.
Migrants look at the Italian shoreline from aboard the Ocean Viking as it approaches the Sicilian port of Messina, southern Italy, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (File photo: AP)
In recent years, the European Union has partnered with the coast guard and other Libyan forces to stop the flow of migrants. Rights groups say those efforts have left migrants at the mercy of brutal armed groups or confined in squalid and overcrowded detention centers that lack adequate food and water.
The EU agreed earlier this year to end an anti-migrant smuggler operation involving only surveillance aircraft and instead deploy military ships to concentrate on upholding a widely flouted UN arms embargo that’s considered key to winding down Libya’s relentless war.