Libyan coast guard intercepts more than 570 Europe-bound migrants

A woman holds a toddler as migrants arrive at a naval base in Tripoli, after being rescued off the coast of Zawia on July 30, 2018. (AFP / Mahmud Turkia)
Updated 02 August 2018
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Libyan coast guard intercepts more than 570 Europe-bound migrants

  • The migrants hailed from both African and Middle Eastern countries — official
  • All of the migrants were given humanitarian and medical aid and were handed over to anti-migration authorities

CAIRO: Libya’s coast guard intercepted three groups totaling more than 570 Europe-bound migrants, including at least 66 women and 19 children, in the Mediterranean Sea, a spokesman said Wednesday.
One group of 292 migrants, including 42 women and 10 children, embarked on the perilous trip for Europe on three rubber boats but the coast guard stopped them off the coast of the western town of Zawiya, coast guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim said in a statement.
Another group of 101 migrants on a rubber boat were also rescued off the capital, Tripoli, the coast guard said in a separate statement.
The coast guard said it had also rescued 181 others, including 24 women and nine children, in a separate incident off Tripoli. The migrants were on two rubber boats, Gassim said.
The migrants hailed from both African and Middle Eastern countries, he said.
The three groups were intercepted Monday. All of them were given humanitarian and medical aid and were handed over to anti-migration authorities in the town of Tajoura and Tripoli, Gassim said.
The interceptions came a day after the UN refugee agency said it is looking into possible violations of international law involving the transport to Libya of 108 migrants rescued at sea by an Italian-flagged mercantile ship.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy said on Twitter that Libya is not a secure port, making such a transfer a violation of international law.
An Italian lawmaker aboard a rescue ship operated by a non-governmental organization, Nicola Frantoianni, said on Facebook that they had proof that the ship, Asso Ventotto, was taking the migrants to Libya, calling it “a very serious precedent” if ordered by the Italian coast guard.
Responding to the suspicions, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Facebook Tuesday that the Italian coast guard was not involved in the rescue, which was coordinated by the Libyan coast guard.
Libya has emerged as a major transit point to Europe for those fleeing poverty and civil war elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East. Traffickers have exploited Libya’s chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Libyan authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of migrants, with assistance from European countries, who are eager to slow a phenomenon that far-right wing parties have seized upon to gain electoral support.


UN envoy sees troop withdrawal in Yemen’s Hodeidah within weeks

Updated 5 min 2 sec ago
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UN envoy sees troop withdrawal in Yemen’s Hodeidah within weeks

  • The UN has struggled to implement a pact agreed at talks last December in Sweden, the first major breakthrough in peace efforts to end the war
  • Griffiths said he had received on Sunday the formal acceptance of the legitimate government and the Houthis to implement a first phase of troop redeployments

DUBAI: Yemen’s warring parties could start withdrawing forces from the main port city of Hodeidah within weeks, a move needed to pave the way for political negotiations to end the four-year war, the UN special envoy said on Thursday.
Martin Griffiths said he had received on Sunday the formal acceptance of the legitimate government and the Iran-backed Houthi group to implement a first phase of troop redeployments, while discussions were still underway for the second phase.
The United Nations has struggled to implement a pact agreed at talks last December in Sweden, the first major breakthrough in peace efforts to end the war that has killed tens of thousands and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
“The two parties agreed formally to the concept of operations for phase one. What we are doing now is ... moving on as planned from there to agree on phase two,” Griffiths told Reuters in a telephone interview without elaborating, adding that talks would “intensify” in coming days.
“So we don’t have an exact date at the moment for the beginning of this physical redeployment,” he said. “It’s got to be weeks ... hopefully few weeks.”
Sources have told Reuters the first phase would see the Houthis leave the city’s ports and pro-government forces leave some areas on the city’s outskirts. In the second phase, both sides would pull troops to 18 km from the city and heavy weapons 30 km away.
The Hodeidah deal was a trust building step aimed at averting a full-scale assault on Hodeidah by the Arab coalition trying to restore the legitimate government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and paving the way for political talks to set up a transitional government.
Danish general Michael Lollesgaard, head of the UN observer team in Hodeidah, chairs a Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) tasked with hammering out details not spelled out in the pact.
A cease-fire in Houthi-held Hodeidah has largely held but violence has escalated elsewhere in the country. The troop withdrawal was due to have been completed by Jan. 7 but stalled over disagreement on who would control the Red Sea port city.
Asked if that issue had been resolved, Griffiths said: “We have ideas on how to bridge the gap on the issue of the local security forces” but it would be up to the parties represented in the RCC headed by Lollesgaard to resolve it.
Three sources told Reuters last month that the first phase would see the Houthis pull back 5 km (3 miles) from the ports of Saleef, used for grain, and Ras Isa, for oil. Then the Houthis would quit Hodeidah port while coalition forces would retreat 1 km from the city’s “Kilo 8” and Saleh districts.
This would restore access cut off since September to the Red Sea Mills, which holds some 50,000 tons of World Food Programme grain, enough to feed 3.7 million people, and allow humanitarian corridors to be reopened.
Hodeidah handles the bulk of Yemen’s commercial and aid supplies and is critical for feeding the population of 30 million people. It became a focus of fighting last year, raising concern that an all-out assault could disrupt supply lines and trigger mass starvation in the poorest Arabian Peninsula nation.
“I know we’re spending an enormous amount of time, and rightly so, on Hodeidah, but it’s the gateway to the comprehensive settlement and of course failure in Hodeida is not an option,” Griffiths said.
“The aim ultimately of an agreement which will resolve the conflict and end this war is to return governing of Yemen to politicians, to return to the people of Yemen accountable government.”