9 July 2017

Libya: Bodies of 19 Egyptian Migrants Found in Libyan Desert

Photo: UN
Walking through desert.

The Red Crescent humanitarian body has said it recovered the decomposed bodies of 19 Egyptian migrants. They appear to have been smuggled into Libya but it remained unclear where they were going when they died.

Red Crescent spokesman Khaled al-Raqi said on Sunday that the 19 people had been found in the Jaghboub desert, some 400 km (250 miles) south of the Libyan port city of Tobruk on the Egyptian border.

They appear to have perished due to high temperatures and hunger, Raqi added. It was unclear when they died, although their bodies were in a state of decomposition when they were recovered on Saturday.

Television network Libya Alaan broadcast footage of Red Crescent workers loading the corpses into black body bags.

Seven of the deceased migrants were identified by their papers and identity cards, while the remaining 12 were believed to have also been Egyptian, based on their appearance, Raqi said.

The Egyptian embassy said it was working to confirm the identities of the 12 people. It remained unclear, however, whether the bodies were subsequently buried or if they would be repatriated to Egypt.

It was also unclear if the 19 migrants had intended to cross through Libya and embark by boat into Europe. While thousands of Egyptians have attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea from western Libya, for decades many have looked for work in the country's oil industry.

Libya's smuggling economy

However, very few Egyptians have looked to move to Libya since the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 and the subsequent political chaos and civil war that has riven the country.

Since the outbreak of the migrant crisis, smugglers have exploited Libya's instability, transforming it from an oil-rich economy into Africa's main gateway for migrants attempting to make the dangerous Mediterranean crossing into Europe.

This week, the UN's refugee agency's (UNHCR) reveled that more than 85,000 migrants had crossed the Mediterranean into Italy this year alone, a 20 percent increase from the same time last year. The UNHCR also warned that the influx of migrants from Africa into Europe showed few signs of abating any time soon.

dm/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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