East African migrants escape from captors in Libyan smuggling hub

Photo showing a group of migrants transferred, off Libya coast on May 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 May 2018
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East African migrants escape from captors in Libyan smuggling hub

  • About 140 East African migrants escaped from smugglers holding them captive near the Libyan town of Bani Walid.
  • The UN agencies said hundreds more were reportedly still being held by smugglers in the area.

TRIPOLI, May 25 : About 140 East African migrants escaped from smugglers holding them captive near the Libyan town of Bani Walid earlier this week, according to a local source and a UN report.
The migrants, numbering about 140 and of Eritrean, Ethiopian and Somali nationality, were being held by “notorious trafficker Mousa Diab,” according to a statement by the UN migration and refugee agencies. Most sought refuge in a local mosque but about two dozen were brought to Bani Walid’s hospital with severe injuries, either from torture during captivity or efforts by smugglers to recapture them, the agencies said.
A Libyan source in Bani Walid said the smugglers opened fire on the migrants to try to prevent their escape. About 10 of them were injured, the source said, asking not to be named for fear of retribution.
The UN agencies said hundreds more were reportedly still being held by smugglers in the area.
Bani Walid, about 145 km (90 miles) south of Tripoli, has become a major hub for the smuggling and trafficking of migrants who arrive from sub-Saharan African countries trying to reach Libya’s Mediterranean coast.
From there, many seek to travel on toward Italy by boat, though crossings have been sharply reduced since last July when a major smuggling group in the Libyan coastal city of Sabratha struck a deal to halt departures under Italian pressure and was then forced out in clashes.
Libya’s EU-backed coast guard has also returned more migrants to Libya after intercepting them at sea.
Migrant community representatives have said smugglers are now operating further inland, especially around Bani Walid, and that migrants who are frequently tortured or raped in order to extort money from them or their families are being held for longer. (Reporting by Ahmed Elumami and Aidan Lewis Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)


One dead as Tunisia security forces arrest migrants

Updated 1 min 15 sec ago
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One dead as Tunisia security forces arrest migrants

TUNIS: A migrant died early Friday as Tunisian security forces clashed with a group of Tunisians and Africans embarking on a clandestine sea crossing to Italy, a security official said.
The police intervened to stop a boat that had been launched off the coast of the central city of Sfax at around 2:30 am (0130 GMT), said Tunisia’s National Guard spokesman Houssemeddine Jebabli.
He said passengers on the vessel had thrown Molotov cocktails at security forces before setting fire to the boat and attempting to flee.
Four Tunisians were arrested along with eight migrants from the Ivory Coast and two from Congo, he said, adding that one of them was hospitalized for burns without specifying which one.
A 15th passenger was found dead, and operations were underway to find any other bodies from the boat.
A growing number of Tunisians are embarking on risky journeys across the Mediterranean Sea to seek work and a better life in Europe.
In the first half of 2018, nearly 2,660 people were arrested in Tunisia during attempts to make the crossing, Jebabli said, compared with just 564 over the same period the previous year.
Several deadly shipwrecks have taken place in recent months, including one on June 3 that killed 87 people.