Tripoli — MORE than 23 000 people have been intercepted at sea and returned to Libya after failed attempts to reach Europe.
This is almost double the total for the whole of 2020 and the highest number on record since interceptions by the Libyan Coast Guard began in 2017.
The total includes more than 1 000 children and over 1 500 women - at least 68 of whom were pregnant- according to findings by the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
The humanitarian agency disclosed some children were traveling on their own or separated from their families.
Some have been suffering from high levels of emotional distress, ill health or traveling with parents who need medical treatment.
"In just eight months we've seen more people brought back to Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard than we have ever witnessed before," said Tom Garofalo, the IRC's Country Director in Libya.
The envoy added, "23 000 is an unprecedented number and it highlights the ongoing severity of the situation in Libya. A decade of violence and unrest, a struggling economy and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the challenges faced by all those living in the country."
In Libya, an estimated 1,3 million people (out of 9,9 million) are in need of humanitarian assistance. This is a 40 percent increase from 2020.
The country is infamous for its notorious detention centres where migrants exploitation, abuse and multiple other violations of their human rights.
"To send people who have risked their lives and been through so much already to detention centres - where the abuses they were trying to escape are also rampant - is not only a violation of their human rights, it is also inhuman," Garofalo said.
The IRC has called for those arbitrarily held in detention in Libya to be immediately released.
When the Libyan Coast Guard first began carrying out European Union-funded interceptions, a total of 15 358 people were brought back to shore.
This decreased to around 9 000 in 2019.
The number spiked again to 11 891 in 2020.
- CAJ News