Over 90 migrants, including woman who gave birth on dinghy, returned to Libya: IOM

Migrants and refugees sit on a rubber boat before to be rescued by the ship Topaz Responder run by Maltese NGO Moas and Italian Red Cross off the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean Sea, on November 5, 2016 off the coast of Libya. (File photo: AFP)

More than 90 migrants were returned to Khums, Libya, including a woman who gave birth on the rubber dinghy, the International Organization for Migration said in a tweet.

The Libyan Coast guard returned 93 migrants to the coastal city east of Tripoli Friday night. Migrants reported to the IOM that six people died during the journey. The coast guard regularly returns people intercepted at sea to migrant detention centers.

So far, nearly 150,000 people have fled their homes to escape the civil war in Libya that has raged for over a year.

Libya has seen fierce fighting as warring factions have battled for the right to rule, and there are an estimated 645,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Libya. The New Humanitarian reported in February that “between 3,200 and 5,000 of them are being held in [Government of National Accord] GNA-affiliated centres across western Libya, where conditions are often desperate, and abuse is rife.”

In early 2020, hundreds of refugees were forced to leave a UNHCR facility that was opened in late 2018. While it was intended to be a safe space for migrants, the center was mired in problems, the UK’s The Guardian reported. UNHCR suspended operations, saying it would soon become a military target.

Refugees said that GNA-aligned militias sheltered in the center and forced refugees to work, with some refugees describing themselves as slaves.

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“In a country without a functioning government, huge sums of European money have been diverted to intertwined networks of militiamen, traffickers and coast guard members who exploit migrants. In some cases, UN officials knew the money was going to militia networks, according to internal emails,” the Associated Press reported in December.

Migrants from other African countries, as well as Libyans, seeking to leave Libya have often sought to reach Europe across the Mediterranean, but the EU funded the Libyan Coast Guard in an attempt to prevent them from reaching European shores as Europe struggled with an influx of refugees and migrants.

EU countries have spent more than $97 million to provide training, equipment and ships to assist the Libyan Coast Guard since 2017. But Italy, the leader of the EU program, does not directly pay salaries and coast guard members reported not being paid for months, the New Humanitarian reported.

“The militias torture, extort and otherwise abuse migrants for ransoms in detention centers under the nose of the UN, often in compounds that receive millions in European money,” the Associated Press investigation found.

In March, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said it would suspend some activities in Libya, including in Tripoli and resettlement flights for refugees and migrants were suspended as the coronavirus pandemic began to take hold in the region.

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Last Update: Saturday, 27 June 2020 KSA 10:40 - GMT 07:40
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