Libya’s coast guard intercepted 83 migrants on a boat heading for Europe and brought them to a detention centre in western Libya, the U.N. migration agency said Sunday.
Safa Mselhi, a spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration, said the migrants were mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, and included one woman. They were intercepted off the Mediterranean town of Garabouli overnight, and were taken to the Souq al-Khamis detention centre in the town of Khoms, around 120 kilometres east Tripoli.
This brought the total number of migrants intercepted and taken back to Libya this year to some 6,000, Mselhi said.
Libya, which descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, has emerged as a major transit point for African and Arab migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe.
Most migrants make the perilous journey in ill-equipped and unsafe rubber boats. The IOM said earlier this year that its estimated death toll among migrants who tried to cross the Mediterranean passed the “grim milestone” of 20,000 deaths since 2014.
In recent years, the European Union has partnered with the coast guard and other Libyan forces to stop the flow of migrants.
Rights groups say those efforts have left migrants at the mercy of brutal armed groups or confined in squalid and overcrowded detention centres that lack adequate food and water.
The EU agreed earlier this year to end an anti-migrant smuggler operation involving only surveillance aircraft and instead deploy military ships to concentrate on upholding a widely flouted U.N. arms embargo that’s considered key to winding down Libya’s relentless war.