An official from the United Nations Migration Agency expressed concern on Thursday that thousands of missing European migrants have been intercepted and returned to Libya as more and more people risk their lives trying to escape. tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.
According to Safa Msehli, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, the Libyan coast guard, which receives funding from the European Union, has blocked more than 24,000 migrants from reaching Europe in the Mediterranean in the past year. this year, including over 800 people just this week.
However, only 6,000 people are counted in official detention centers in the North African country, she said. The fate and fate of thousands of other migrants remains unknown.
“We fear that many end up in the hands of criminal groups and traffickers, while others are blackmailed for their release,” Msehli said.
A spokesman for Libya's Interior Ministry, which oversees detention centers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press.
Libya has for many years been a hub for African and Middle Eastern migrants fleeing war and poverty in their home countries and hoping for a better life in Europe. The oil-rich country fell into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime autocrat Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.