Libya: Migrant Organization - At Least 65 Bodies Found in Mass Grave in Libya

The bodies of at least 65 migrants have been discovered in a mass grave in Libya, the International Organization for Migration said Friday, adding that it is "profoundly shocked and alarmed."

In a statement, the IOM said that although certain details about the dead, such as their nationalities and the circumstances of their deaths, are unknown, "it is believed that they died in the process of being smuggled through the desert."

Human trafficking groups have taken advantage of political turmoil in Libya since its former ruler, Moammar Gadhafi, was overthrown and killed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011. The nation has since turned into a route for migrants seeking to escape conflict and poverty and go to Europe.

Migrants from other parts of Africa come to Libya to try to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The route to Europe, mostly because of human traffickers, has become one of the most dangerous migratory routes in the world. The IOM Missing Migrants Project reported at least 3,129 deaths and disappearances along the route in 2023.

Migrants who are intercepted and brought back to Libya are put in government-run detention centers and subject to horrific abuse, The Associated Press said, citing the IOM project.

The IOM added in its statement Friday that it appreciated that Libyan authorities are launching an investigation into the deaths, and it urged them to identify the dead, notify and assist their families, and transfer the remains.

According to Reuters, in an unverified Facebook message, the Criminal Investigation Department of Tripoli's Interior Ministry on Monday posted drone footage of the mass grave, which appeared to show numbered bodies with white markings and yellow tape.

The department specified that the bodies were found south of Tripoli. It said it took DNA samples and buried the bodies in a cemetery, as ordered by the attorney general of the appeals chamber in the town of Gharyan.

The IOM said that these deaths show an "urgent need to address the challenges of irregular migration" by addressing migrant smuggling and trafficking.

"Without regular pathways that provide opportunities for legal migration, such tragedies will continue to be a feature along this route," it said.

Some information in this report came from Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.

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