Tripoli — THE number of migrants detained in Libya has decreased five-fold since humanitarian organisation and governments resumed the exercise to resume the evacuation of thousands stranded in the North African country.
The International Office of Migration (IOM) confirmed the population of migrants in official detention centres has dropped from an estimated 20 000 people in October 2017 to 4 000 people currently.
This follows the African Union (AU), European Union (EU) and the Libyan Government scaling up the Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) from the North African country since November.
IOM confirmed it had assisted with the evacuation of 10 171 migrants.
Another 5 200 migrants have returned with the support of AU member states in the same period.
Some 23 302 migrants have returned through IOM's VHR programme.
"We are continuing to assist migrants inside Libyan detention centres, while increasing efforts to reach stranded migrants outside of detention," said Othman Belbeisi, IOM Libya Chief of Mission.
Nearly half of voluntary humanitarian returns carried out by IOM from Libya are part of a larger EU-IOM initiative to protect and assist migrants in need not only in Libya but in 26 countries along the Central Mediterranean route.
Libya is a passage to Europe by boat.
Thousands of migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean while others remain trapped in the country after being swindled by middlemen purportedly facilitating their trips to Europe. At least 400 have drowned this year.
The unstable Libya was recently at the centre of a slave trade scandal.