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16,000 migrants repatriated from Libya since January, confirms EU

March 14, 2018 at 1:45 pm

Refugees wait to get on onboard the rescue vessel after being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea near Libya. [Marcus Drinkwater / Anadolu Agency]

Over 16,000 African migrants have been repatriated from camps in Libya under the EU’s emergency plan for this year, the Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini confirmed yesterday.

European and African leaders announced the plan to help speed up the process of voluntary repatriation of migrants after footage emerged last year of slave markets operating in Libya where sub-Saharan migrants were sold off for as little as $200 by Libyan people smugglers and criminal networks.

The migrant detention camps in Libya have gained notoriety for rape, torture and beatings at some of the facilities, including those under the control of the UN-backed government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj.

“In the first two months of this year, January and February, we managed to rescue and free more than 16,000 people from the camps in Libya,” Mogherini told the European Parliament in Strasbourg. “I believe we can empty them completely within maximum [a] couple of months.”

Read: Hundreds of migrants picked up between Libya and Italy

According to EU statistics, between 4,000 and 5,000 people are still awaiting repatriation.

The poor security situation in Libya has enabled human-traffickers and criminal networks to thrive as the country has been used as a transit point for migrants to try to reach Europe, a process which has claimed thousands of lives. There has, though, been a decline in migrants arriving in Italy since an EU-Libya deal agreed last year.