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Libya has stepped up interceptions at sea amid a wave of attempts by migrants and refugees to reach Europe.
The Libyan coastguard has intercepted a wooden boat carrying about 500 migrants and refugees to Europe, the United Nations refugee agency said, two days after Tripoli detained 4,000 people in a massive crackdown.
The boat was intercepted on Sunday and people were disembarked at an oil refinery in the western city of Zawiya, a key entry point for migrants and refugees, UNHCR said. Among them were Sudanese, Somalis, Bangladeshis and Syrians.
The interception at sea marked the last such intervention amid a wave of crossings and attempted crossings from the North African nation to European shores in recent months.
The Libyan coastguard intercepted about 90 migrants on Saturday, including eight women and three children, and returned them to Tripoli. It has also recovered the bodies of two migrants while 40 others were still missing at sea, the UN agency said.
On Friday, 4,000 migrants were detainedincluding hundreds of women and children, in the western city of Gargaresh.
Authorities described it as a security campaign against undocumented migration and drug trafficking, but the Interior Ministry, which led the crackdown, made no mention of arrests of traffickers or smugglers.
Georgette Gagnon, assistant secretary general of the UN and humanitarian coordinator for Libya, said in a statement on Saturday that a migrant was killed and at least 15 others injured — six of them seriously — when Libyan security authorities raided homes and temporary makeshift shelters. in Gargaresh.
“The United Nations reiterates that the use of excessive and unwarranted lethal force by security and police forces during law enforcement operations is a violation of national and international law,” Gagnon said.
“We call on the Libyan authorities to investigate reports of the use of deadly and excessive force by security forces against migrants in yesterday’s operations.”
Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. Those intercepted are often taken to detention centers, where international organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have found violent abuse be widespread.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), some 44,000 people reached European shores in the first nine months of 2021, crossing the central Mediterranean from Tunisia and Libya.
More than 25,000 people have been intercepted by the European Union-trained and equipped Libyan coastguard and returned to the war-torn country.
More than 1,100 migrants have been reported dead or presumed dead off the coast of Libya during the same period.
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