Pressure Mounts for Fresh Approach in Libya as Incidents of Distress Boats Surge, 4,000 Migrants Rescued

The reluctance of countries to provide save harbour from Libya is signalling a need for a change in approach to the situation in the war-torn North African country. 

So far, nearly 4,000 people have been intercepted or rescued at sea and returned to Libya this 2020. 

There have been numerous incidents involving boats in distress in the Mediterranean Sea recently. 

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is arguing that while prosecuting smugglers and traffickers should remain a priority, ‘’it is equally urgent to establish an alternative safe disembarkation scheme whereby those fleeing conflict and violence are provided with a port of safety, and their needs and protection guaranteed.’’ 

Already, the UN migration agency has deplored the killing of 30 migrants in a shooting on Thursday involving a trafficker in Libya. 

The tragedy occurred in a smuggling warehouse in Mezda, near the city of Gharyan, southwest of Tripoli where a group of migrants were being held. 

Eleven migrants who sustained severe injuries were rushed to the hospital. 

IOM Libya Chief of Mission, Federico Soda, says “this senseless crime is a bleak reminder of the horrors migrants have to endure at the hands of smugglers and traffickers in Libya. 

“These criminal groups are taking advantage of the instability and security situation to prey on desperate people and exploit their vulnerabilities.” 

IOM is calling on Libyan authorities to immediately launch an investigation to bring those responsible to justice.  

IOM medical staff who referred some of those in critical condition to clinics in the capital and are providing assistance report that some of the migrants bear old marks of beatings and physical abuse. 

As the conflict continues unabated in the capital and surrounding areas, conditions for civilians, especially migrants and displaced persons are quickly deteriorating. 

Many of those intercepted or rescued and returned to Libya this year have been taken to unofficial detention centres where they can easily fall into the hands of smugglers and traffickers.

IOM has previously reported disappearances from these facilities and an inability to account for hundreds if not thousands of those returned by the coast guard. 

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