Over 80 migrants to be deported from Libya

Photo credit: AFP. African migrants detained in Libya.

TMP – 19/01/2018

Authorities in eastern Libya have said they will deport 81 migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia who have been detained in the country after escaping from smugglers.

According to Reuters, officials say the migrants were reported to authorities by an imam at a mosque in southern Libya.

“They were arrested in the Zueitina area at a camp of illegal migrants,” said Ahmed al-Arifi, a representative from the department for countering illegal migration in the city of Benghazi. “They were arrested for deportation back to their countries.”

Libya is the main smuggling hub for migrants trying to reach Europe by sea, though departures dropped sharply in July last year when some armed factions began blocking crossings.

Arifi said a total of 5,686 migrants had been deported from eastern Libya last year, up from 2,912 in 2016.

One of the Eritrean migrants, speaking at a detention centre in Benghazi, said he had arrived in Libya in March last year from Sudan, after paying US$4,000 for the journey.

He was taken across the Sahara Desert to the western Libyan smuggling hub of Sabratha, and waited there with other migrants for about four months before being told the sea route had been closed, Reuters reports.

Armed groups began preventing boat departures in Sabratha in July, and a major smuggling group was pushed out of the city in September.

The Eritrean said he had then crossed back through the town of Bani Walid to Ajdabiya in the east, close to Zueitina. Smugglers had demanded another US$2,000 for the trip to Europe, but he was unable to pay and fled mistreatment at their hands.

“I wanted to go to Italy to work but unfortunately it wasn’t possible,” he said. “We suffer from severe poverty in our country and there’s a dictatorial system. Now because we were treated badly by smugglers we are suffering from illnesses and skin diseases. We don’t want to return to our country, we want to go to Europe.”