Libya Migrant Crisis: 850 Migrants Detained Off Coast

(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)

Libyan coastguards have detained 850 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe off the coast of Sabratha on Sunday.

Ayoub Qassem, a spokesman for the Libyan Navy, told Reuters that the migrants were travelling in seven inflatable rubber boats and came from various African countries.

Seventy-nine of the 850 migrants were women, 11 of whom were pregnant, and 11 of the migrants were children. The migrants were handed over to the authorities for transfer to shelters, said Qassem.

The incident comes as the United Nations holds its first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on Monday, where world leaders will meet to discuss how to best deal with the ever increasing migrant crisis.

Migrants from all over Africa use Libya as their destination point from which they leave for Italy via the Mediterranean Sea. Officials are expecting a sharp rise in the number of migrants attempting to cross from Libya’s central Mediterranean route to increase due to border closings in eastern European countries and improving weather conditions.

The complete lack of security in Libya since the fall of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 has made the country the perfect place for people smugglers to make millions packing people escaping war and poverty into unsafe crafts in hopes that they reach European shores.

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj has requested the EU’s support in the training of the Libyan Navy and Coast Guard in order to help the EU in Operation Sophia, which aims at curbing the large flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

In a meeting between Libya’s Vice President Ahmed Maetig and Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano in Rome in April, the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) expressed its desire to enter into an agreement with the European Union, similar to the one between the Turkey and the EU, in order to restrict the increasing number of migrants who are leaving from Libya towards Europe

Italy is receiving the largest number of migrants arriving from North Africa via the Mediterranean, with more than 30,000 people reportedly reaching Italy’s shores already this year.

A report by Interpol and Europol last week estimated that around 800,000 migrants are currently waiting in Libya to cross into Europe.

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