72 migrants intercepted off Libyan coast: UNHCR

FILE PHOTO: 27 August 2019, ---: The rescue ship "Eleonore" sails on the Mediterranean with around 100 migrants on board. (Photo by Johannes Filous/picture alliance via Getty Images)
A ship sails in the Mediterranean Sea laden with over a hundred migrants taken from a sinking boat off the Libyan coast in August, 2019. (Photo: Johannes Filous / Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Saturday said that 72 migrants have been intercepted by the Libyan coast guard off the country’s western coast.

The UNHCR tweeted that “72 people were brought back to Tripoli Naval Port by Libyan Coast Guard late last night. UNHCR and the International Rescue Committee provided water, food, medical help.” It added that the group were being moved to detention on Saturday.

The UNHCR stressed that Libya is not a safe port for disembarkation, and called for alternatives to the detention of migrants.

The fall of Libya’s late leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 created a state of insecurity and chaos in the country that made it a preferred point of departure towards Europe for thousands of irregular migrants, mostly Africans.

The UNHCR on Friday called for renewed action against human trafficking in Libya, expressing readiness to support the Libyan authorities in identifying and implementing alternatives to detention in Libya and ending arbitrary detention of refugees and asylum-seekers.

The UNHCR revealed that, in addition to people held in trafficking camps, more than 2,000 refugees and migrants are being detained in official detention center without judicial review.

The commissioner also said that more than 6,000 refugees and migrants have been intercepted at sea by the Libyan coast guard and returned to Libya so far in 2020.