CAIRO (AP) — More than 200 migrants bound for Europe were intercepted on Friday by Libya’s coast guard just off the shore of the North African country, a U.N. spokeswoman said.
Safa Msehli, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration, tweeted that the migrants were expected to be sent to Libyan detention centers where they are usually “extorted and abused.”
So far this year, 11,000 migrants were have been detained by Libyan authorities under “appalling conditions,” she added.
Libya has become the major transit point for African and Arab migrants hoping to reach Europe, after the North African country plunged into a bloody civil war following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. Over the last several years, hundreds of thousands of migrants have reached Europe either on their own or after being rescued at sea.
Thousands have drowned along the way. Others were intercepted and returned to Libya to be left at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers that lack adequate food and water, according to rights groups.
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The Associated Press