(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
In another busy day of rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, over 2,000 migrants were intercepted off the coast of Libya on Thursday.
“The coast guards have coordinated 15 rescue operations, some 2,000 migrants are safe and sound,” said a spokesman for the Italian coast guard.
In addition, more than 1000 migrants were rescued off Libya on Wednesday by the Italian coast guard, Operation Sophia vessels, and vessels from the EU’s Frontex border agency.
Of the 15 boats intercepted on the Mediterranean, 13 were rubber dinghies, and the bodies of two migrants were recovered from one of the inflatable vessels by an EU ship.
On Tuesday, the Libyan coast guard intercepted 117 migrants headed to Europe, including six pregnant women.
The Libyan coast guard took the group, who set out from a beach near Garabulli, 60 kilometres east of Tripoli, back to shore.
Colonel Ahsraf al-Badri said that the migrants were seen by medics in Tripoli before they were taken to a detention center.
“The 117 migrants, including six pregnant women, were intercepted off Garabulli and brought to a port in Tripoli by the coast guard’s speedboats,” Badri told AFP.
The United Nations has reported that over 10,000 migrants have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014, and more than 48,000 migrants crossed to Italy this year alone.
Human smuggling in Libya is prevalent as traffickers take advantage of the political chaos and lawlessness in Libya to carry out their illegal operations, often working alongside local militias.
The head of the European Union’s Mediterranean naval mission recently said that people smuggling was estimated to account for between 30 and 50 percent of the gross domestic product in northwestern Libya.
Earlier this week, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj said in an interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that Libya would not accept returned migrants from Europe.
“We will not accept that the EU send back immigrants to us,” said Sarraj. “Europe needs to find ways to bring them back to their home countries. They cannot live with us.”
Sarraj said that Libya would not agree to a deal like the one made between Turkey and Europe and take back refugees who chose Libya as their destination point to cross the Mediterranean to get into Italy because the security situation in Libya is different from Turkey.
On Wednesday, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni agreed with Sarraj, stating that the conditions in Libya were unsafe to allow such an agreement to take place.