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Hundreds of migrants intercepted off coast of Libya

Associated Press Reporter

At least 480 migrants were intercepted off Libya by local coastguard forces over the weekend, according to the UN’s migration agency.

They are among the 4,500 people who have been brought back to Libya this year after attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to Europe, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said in a tweet.

Photos posted by the IOM Twitter feed showed workers distributing blankets to migrants after they arrived onshore, but the agency also voiced its objection to the treatment of migrants inside the war-torn country.

“We maintain that Libya is not a safe port,” it wrote.

It said that 310 migrants were brought back to shore on Saturday night, and an additional 173 were returned on Sunday.

In recent years, the European Union has partnered with Libya’s coastguard and other local groups to stem such dangerous sea crossings. Rights groups say those policies leave migrants at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centres rife with abuses.

On January 19, a boat carrying migrants bound for Europe capsized in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya, and at least 43 people drowned.

The tragedy marked the first maritime disaster in 2021 involving migrants seeking better lives in Europe. The IOM had cited survivors as saying that the dead were all men from West African nations.

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