Published: January 15, 2020
BRUSSELS – Almost 1,000 people trying to escape Libya by boat were intercepted by the Coast Guard in the first two weeks of the new year and returned to the conflict-ridden country, the International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday.
According to the IOM, at least 953 migrants, including 136 women and 85 children, were picked up from the Mediterranean and many returned to the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
They were picked up by the Libyan coast guard, which is trained and funded by the European Union, and a merchant ship. All were then taken to detention centers, the agency said in a statement.
Libya is run by rival authorities in the east and west that vie for power. The government based in the east is supported by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt as well as France and Russia. The western government based in Tripoli receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.
Recent fighting on the outskirts of Tripoli threatened to plunge Libya into chaos that could compete with the 2011 conflict in which long-time dictator Moammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed.
The IOM said that no migrants were returned to Libya in the same two-week period in 2019, but that 23 bodies were recovered from the sea at the time.
The organization said migrants that its employees spoke to were mainly held responsible for the increase in departures to Europe in and around Tripoli.
“Measures to protect life and ensure the safety of these people are not in force” in places in Libya where migrants are deported, the agency said. “Alternative solutions must be found that save lives and alleviate the suffering of thousands of men, women and children imprisoned in inhumane conditions.”
Although the European Union has also worked with Turkey to curb the influx of refugees and migrants living in Europe, the Cypriot police reported that they had brought 101 Syrians to safety after their boat had problems about 37 km off the south-east coast of the island state ,
Many of the Syrians – 88 men, 6 women and 7 minors – boarded a Navy Police ship while others stayed on board the 10-meter boat when it was towed to a nearby port for medical check-ups ,
Police said they will be taken to a migrant reception center near the capital of Cyprus, Nicosia.
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