9 July 2018

Libya: Detention of Migrants Rescued at Sea Cruel and Must End - UN

Photo: HCR / Iason Foounten
Migrants in Libya

The Head of the UN Migration Agency, William Lacy Swing, is appealing to Libyan authorities to stop detaining migrants intercepted or rescued at sea by the Coast Guard after trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

The International Organization for Migration praises Libya's dramatically stepped up anti-smuggler operations. With European Union support, it notes the number of migrants rescued in Libya's territorial waters and brought back to shore has greatly increased.

IOM Spokesman, Leonard Doyle, says in the past month alone, the Libyan coast guard has intercepted nearly 4,000 migrants.

"Despite occasional, from what we understand, rogue issues, there generally seems to be a desire by the coast guard personnel to save lives, to get their country back on a regular footing and to avoid having indiscriminate, irregular migration where the only people profiting are the smugglers," said Doyle.

IOM Chief Swing recently returned from a two-day visit to Libya where he appealed to the authorities to end the cruel policy of locking up migrants who already have suffered so much trying to reach European shores. Doyle says there are some signs the authorities are willing to consider this.

"They will probably do that by trying to speed up repatriation. So we support them in voluntary repatriation, voluntary return, humanitarian return from Libya," said Doyle. "It sometimes takes a while because they do not have papers, they do not have documents. The only embassies in the country really full-time are African embassies and even they are at very low capacity."

Doyle says once the documentation and bureaucratic process is completed, it will be relatively simple to repatriate the migrants. He says IOM has a charter flight leaving for an African destination practically every day, taking people who voluntarily want to return home.

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