Africa

More than 900 Europe-bound migrants rescued in operations by Libya and Morocco

Some 400 irregular migrants were intercepted at sea and returned to Libya, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Tuesday.

“Last night, some 400 persons were returned to Libya including 28 women and 4 children,” UNHCR tweeted.

“Disembarkations took place at the Tripoli Naval Base and Azzawiya Oil Refinery. The majority were Sudanese, Eritrean and Ethiopian. UNHCR and International Rescue Committee provided urgent assistance to all survivors,” it said.

An additional 483 migrants were intercepted and returned to Morocco.

The Moroccan navy says it rescued an additional 483 migrants, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa, in operations during the past week.   The migrants received first aid before being taken to the nearest Moroccan port.

The state-run MAP news agency also reported that Moroccan authorities on Sunday intercepted 58 migrants, including 11 women, off Laayoune in Western Sahara. In this incident, the migrants were heading west into the Atlantic Ocean in an attempt to get to the Canary Islands.

Migrant arrivals on the Spanish archipelago have surged since late 2019 when increased patrols in the Mediterranean dramatically reduced crossings there.

At its shortest, the sea crossing from the Moroccan coast is around 100 kilometres (65 miles), but strong currents make it very dangerous.

The vessels used are often overcrowded and in poor condition, adding to the risks.

In the first six months of this year, a total of 2,087 migrants died trying to reach Spain, according to Caminando Fronteras, a Spanish NGO that monitors migrant flows.

The International Organization for Migration says so far in 2021, more than 22,000 migrants, including women and children, have been intercepted, while hundreds of others died and went missing off the Libyan coast on the Central Mediterranean route,

Intercepted migrants end up inside overcrowded reception centers across Libya, despite repeated international calls to close those centers.

Article published with input from AFP and Xinhua News Agency

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