CAIRO (AP) — Libyan authorities raided a secret prison in a southeastern city used by human traffickers and freed at last 156 African migrants, as the United Nations (UN) migration agency said Monday more than 1,300 Europe-bound migrants were returned over the past week to the conflict-stricken country.
The raid in the city of Kufra took place on Sunday after a migrant managed to escape a house-turned-prison last week and reported to authorities that he and other migrants were held and tortured by traffickers there, the Kufra security bureau said.
Security forces arrested at least six traffickers and referred them to prosecutors for further investigation, the bureau said. Among them were 15 women and five children, it said.
The migrants, who are from Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan, were freed and taken to the shelter center where they were given food, clothes, and blankets.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said at least 1,315 migrants were intercepted at the Mediterranean Sea since February 16, and returned to Libya’s western cities of Tripoli, Zuwara and Sabratha.
At least a dozen bodies were retrieved, it said. Since the beginning of the year, some 3,600, including around 270 women and 187 children, were returned to the North African country, the IOM said.
Like previous ones, those migrants were taken to squalid detention centres in and around Tripoli. Thousands of migrants have already been confined in these centres, mostly run by militias linked to authorities in Tripoli.
The UN migration and refugee agencies have repeatedly called for an “urgent and measurable shift in the approach” to the situation in the Mediterranean, including an end to migrant returns to “unsafe” Libya.