Morocco repatriates stranded migrants from Libya
RABAT: Morocco on Saturday said it has started the third and final operation to repatriate its nationals stranded in Libya, a stepping stone to illegal migration to Europe.
The ministry of expatriates and migration said the operation was launched on Friday and aimed at bringing home 338 Moroccan migrants stuck in Libya.
The migrants were to be lown to Casablanca on the Libyan airline Afriqiyah and then transported by bus to their home towns, the ministry said in a statement.
It did not say when the operation was expected to be concluded.
Morocco has already repatriated 435 of its citizens from Libya in two separate operations in August and December.
The International Organization for Migration has called on Libya to shut down 30 detention centres holding 15,000 migrants.
Authorities in eastern Libya said late Thursday they had arrested and would deport 81 migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia who had escaped from smugglers after failing to reach Europe.
The migrants were reported to authorities by an imam at a mosque on the coast to the south of the Libyan city of Benghazi, oficials said.
Since the 2011 fall and killing of its longtime ruler Muammar Qadhai, Libya has become a key launchpad for migrants making desperate bids to reach Europe, often on unseaworthy vessels.
The plight of migrants in Libya has garnered fresh attention after an outcry over reports of slave auctions in the country, an enormous transit hub for sub-saharan Africans seeking to reach Europe.
The United Nations is committed to helping Libya organise elections by the end of this year, encouraged by the rate at which Libyans have been registering to vote, a top UN oficial said on Wednesday.
A UN effort launched in September aims to amend a December 2015 peace plan for Libya and pave the way for a vote, but has so far produced no deal on how to move towards one.