Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Vessel with Libyan refugees still at sea


CAIRO — At least 78 migrants fleeing war-torn Libya for Europe remain stuck at sea without a designated port to dock, the U.N. migration agency said Monday.

Libya has emerged as a major transit point for African and Arab migrants fleeing conflict and poverty following the overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

The migrants fled Libya three days ago and were rescued by a merchant vessel Sunday in the Mediterran­ean Sea, said Safa Msehli, a spokeswoma­n for the Internatio­nal Organizati­on for Migration.

The vessel carrying the migrants has still not received permission to dock at any port, Msehli said. She called on the European Union to establish a clear and safe disembarka­tion mechanism for people recused in the Mediterran­ean.

The boat was the fourth carrying migrants to depart Libya in less than a week, the agency said.

Most migrants leaving Libya’s coasts make the perilous journey in ill-equipped and unsafe rubber boats. The agency’s estimated death toll among migrants who tried to cross the Mediterran­ean this month passed the “grim milestone” of 20,000 since 2014.

In recent years, the European Union has partnered with the Libyan coast guard and other local forces to stop the flow of migrants. Rights groups say those efforts have left migrants at the mercy of brutal armed groups or confined in squalid and overcrowde­d detention centers that lack adequate food and water.

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