CAIRO (AP) – More than 200 migrants bound for Europe were intercepted by the Libyan coast guard off the coast of the North African country on Friday, a UN spokeswoman said.
Safa Msehli, a spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration, tweeted that the migrants were expected to be sent to Libyan detention centers where they are generally “extorted and abused.”
So far this year, Libyan authorities have detained 11,000 migrants in “appalling conditions,” he added.
Libya has become the main 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 the former ruler Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stagnate and wreck along the dangerous central Mediterranean route. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of migrants have arrived in Europe on their own or after being rescued at sea.
Thousands have drowned on the way. Others were intercepted and returned to Libya to be left at the mercy of armed groups or confined in miserable detention centers lacking adequate food and water, according to human rights groups.
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