Record number of refugees, migrants returned to Libya: UN

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Rescued migrants disembark from a Libyan coast guard ship in the town of Khoms on October 1, 2019. © Mahmud Turkia, AFP

A record number of refugees and migrants who were traveling in boats on the Mediterranean Sea were rescued and returned to Libya, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Saturday.

According to the UNHCR, more than 1,000 migrants were rescued in five different operations in Zawiya and the capital Tripoli.

FILE PHOTO: Rescued migrants disembark from a Libyan coast guard ship in the town of Khoms. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP)

The UNHCR added that it had partnered with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to provide the migrants with food, water and medicine before transferring them to the Libyan authorities.

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 centres.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 10,000 migrants so far have been rescued and returned to Libya this year while at least 180 migrants traveling from Libya have died and hundreds of others are missing.

The IOM has previously warned that more migrants and refugees may attempt the dangerous crossing as weather and sea conditions improve and living conditions in Libya worsen.

The Mediterranean Sea is the most preferred route, primarily through Libya, by migrants who attempt to get into Europe through Italy and Malta. The migrants, who mainly come from Sub-Saharan Africa, also take the sea journey towards Europe from Tunisia and Morocco.

The migrants make the dangerous crossing in an attempt to flee war, terrorism, authoritarian governments and poverty.

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