Over 1,000 migrants try to reach Europe from Libya in the first two weeks of 2020

More than 1,000 migrants left the Libyan coast in the first two weeks of 2020 in an attempt to reach Europe by boat, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). 

At least 953 of the migrants, including 136 women and 85 children, were intercepted and returned to Libyan detention centres after disembarking in Tripoli. A further 237 migrants were rescued by search and rescue vessels operated by NGOs.

“During the same period last year, 23 bodies were recovered by the coast guard and no migrants were returned to Libya. The current sudden increase in departures is especially alarming given the very limited search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean,” according to IOM.

The mass migrations were driven in part by the crisis that has rocked Libya in recent months, resulting in depreciating humanitarian conditions in and around the capital, Tripoli.

The North African country has become a major transit country in recent years for migrants and refugees fleeing poverty and war and attempting to reach Europe through irregular routes. Thousands of migrants and refugees are held in overcrowded and unhygienic detention centres across the war-ravaged country. The United Nations called for the closure of all detention centres in Libya after an airstrike killed over 60 migrants and injured more than 130 in July 2019.

Due to Libya’s security situation, IOM says it is struggling to evacuate more than 1,000 migrants who have expressed interest in returning to their countries of origin through its Voluntary Humanitarian Return programme. “The challenging and unsafe environment in the country’s capital has disrupted aviation activities thus hindering an important lifeline for stranded migrants,” says IOM. 

“While our operations and programmes continue across the country, they have been largely affected, especially with regards to the safe movement of migrants to transit points and airports,” explains IOM’s Libya Chief of Mission, Federico Soda. “A minimum degree of security is needed for us to be able to safely assist 500 people scheduled to return home in the coming days.”

TMP – 23/01/2020

Photo credit: Riccardo Nastasi / Shutterstock

Photo caption: Abandoned migrant boat