More than 160 migrants intercepted, returned to Libya

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About 100 migrants are crowded together on deck of the rescue ship "Eleonore". The "Eleonore" took in the migrants on 26.08.2019 off the Libyan coast./ Getty Images)

More than 160 migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya, International Organization for Migration (IOM) Libya Chief of Mission Federico Soda said on Monday.

According to Soda, the events occurred between January 3 and 4 but he did not give any details on the location(s).

FILE PHOTO: Migrants on the deck of a rescue ship off the Libyan coast. (Photo by Johannes Filous/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Soda called on stakeholders to establish predictable disembarkation in a safe port and deploy state-led search and rescue assets to aid such operations to save migrants.

Additionally, he called for restrictions on the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to be lifted given the scale of the work required to deal with the migrant crisis and the importance of the aid such organizations offer.

Soda further appealed to authorities to help dismantle the detention system in the North African country.

Thousands of refugees and migrants are held in about more than a dozen official detention facilities in Libya, some under control of by armed groups, in addition to an unknown number in neglected centres run by traffickers, according to the United Nations.

Human rights groups say abuses, including violence and forced labour, are widespread in these detention centres.

The Mediterranean Sea is the most preferred route by migrants from Africa, mostly from Libya, who attempt to get into Europe through Italy and Malta.

Thousands of people have died while attempting to make the dangerous crossing.

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