Libya coast guard detains 113 migrants during lull in fighting

Libya is a major departure point for many African migrants fleeing poverty and wars. (AFP/File)
Updated 01 May 2019

Libya coast guard detains 113 migrants during lull in fighting

  • Libya is a popular departure point for many African migrants trying to reach Europe
  • The recent clashes between LNA and GNA forces have slowed down immigration rate through Libya

TRIPOLI/GENEVA: The Libyan coast guard has stopped 113 migrants trying to reach Italy over the past two days, the United Nations said on Wednesday, as boat departures resume following a lull in fighting between rival forces in Libya.
The western Libyan coast is a major departure point for mainly African migrants fleeing conflict and poverty and trying to reach Italy across the Mediterranean Sea with the help of human traffickers.
Smuggling activity had slowed when forces loyal to military commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to take the Libyan capital Tripoli, home to the internationally recognized government.
But clashes eased on Tuesday after a massive push by Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) force with artillery failed to make inroads toward the center. Shelling audible in central Tripoli was less on Wednesday than on previous days.
The Libyan coast guard stopped two boats on Tuesday and one more on Wednesday carrying a total of 113 migrants and returned them to Zuwara and Khums, two western towns away from the Tripoli frontline, where they were put into detention centers, the UN migration agency IOM said.
These were the only reported boats since April 11 when 19 migrants were stopped by the coast guard and returned to Khums, according to IOM.
The Libyan coast guard could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.
Human rights groups have accused armed groups and members of the coast guard of being involved in human trafficking.
Last week Vincent Cochetel, special envoy of the UN refugee agency UNHCR for the situation in the central Mediterranean, tweeted: “It is remarkable to note that in spite of the war in Tripoli no boats with migrants & refugees are leaving. The militias known for their involvement in human trafficking are too busy fighting for their survival.”
Officials have been accused in the past of mistreating detainees, who are being held in their thousands as part of European-backed efforts to curb smuggling.
According to one UN report last December, migrants and refugees in Libya suffer a “terrible litany of violations” including unlawful killings, torture, gang rape and slavery by a combination of state officials, armed groups and traffickers.
Human rights groups have also accused the European Union of complicity in the abuse as Italy and France have provided boats for the coast guard to step up patrols. That move has helped to reduce migrant departures.


Palestinian leader roundly rejects Trump peace plan

Updated 29 min 14 sec ago

Palestinian leader roundly rejects Trump peace plan

  • Mahmoud Abbas says Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation
  • Calls for Palestinians to resist the plan through 'peaceful, popular means'

RAMALLAH: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said “a thousand no's” Tuesday to the Mideast peace plan announced by President Donald Trump, which strongly favors Israel.
“After the nonsense that we heard today we say a thousand no's to the Deal of The Century," Abbas said at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Western-backed Palestinian Authority is headquartered.
He said the Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a state with its capital in east Jerusalem.
“We will not kneel and we will not surrender,” Abbas said, adding that the Palestinians would resist the plan through “peaceful, popular means.”
The plan would create a Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank, but would allow Israel to annex nearly all of its settlements in the occupied territory. The plan would allow the Palestinians to establish a capital on the outskirts of east Jerusalem but would leave most of the city under Israeli control.
The Islamic militant group ruling Gaza rejected the "conspiracies" announced by the U.S. and Israel and said "all options are open" in responding to the Trump administration's plan.
“We are certain that our Palestinian people will not let these conspiracies pass. So, all options are open. The (Israeli) occupation and the U.S. administration will bear the responsibility for what they did," senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said as he participated in one of several protests that broke out across the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Protesters burned tires and pictures of President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Abbas held an emergency meeting with other Palestinian factions, including Hamas, to discuss a unified response to the plan. Abbas had rejected the deal before it was announced saying the U.S. was hopelessly biased toward Israel.
Jordan meanwhile warned against any Israeli "annexation of Palestinian lands" and reaffirmed its commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines, which would include all the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned of “the dangerous consequences of unilateral Israeli measures, such as annexation of Palestinian lands.”
Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries to have made peace with Israel.