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Libya Arrests 4,000 migrants

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Libyan security forces arrested around 4,000 migrants, including hundreds of women and children.

The people were rounded up in the city of Gargaresch in the west of the country and taken to detention camps in the capital Tripoli and the surrounding area, authorities said.

According to the prosecutor, the operation was directed against drug and arms trafficking, among other things.

The special envoy of the UN refugee agency for the central Mediterranean region, Vincent Cochetel, told the AP news agency, according to initial reports, there were one dead and 15 injured in the action.

Transitional Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah welcomed the operation via Twitter as an “operation to eradicate drug trafficking”. Dbeibah said it would not be allowed to wage a “war against the youth” which was “a drug war”.

However, they left it open whether people smugglers or drug smugglers were also arrested. The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Libya, Dax Roque, had previously reported the arrest of “at least 500 migrants”, including women and children. On Saturday it was said that the number had risen to 4,000.

In some cases, security forces used excessive force to evict people from their homes. The shelters of illegal immigrants were razed to the ground during the operation.

“We shouldn’t be surprised if people are scared and try to go by sea (Libya).” Tarik Lamlum, a worker with the Libyan human rights group Belaadi, said there had been human rights abuses, particularly in the way women and children were arrested.

Massive assault and abuse

Gargaresch is known as a contact point for migrants and refugees and is located around twelve kilometers west of Tripoli.

The town has seen several waves of arrests against migrants in recent years, but activists have described the most recent as the toughest crackdown to date.

The Libyan Ministry of the Interior published pictures on social media on Friday, apparently showing some of the arrested.

They sat in groups on a street with their hands tied behind their backs. A bird’s eye photo showed men lying face down on the floor at an intersection. Military vehicles and guards surrounded them.

First, the migrants were taken to a facility in Tripoli called a collection and return center, said the head of the center, policeman Nuri al-Grettli. Then they were distributed to detention centers in Tripoli and surrounding cities.

According to human rights activists, these prisons are subject to massive assault and abuse. Dax Roque expressed concern that such martyrdom threatened the migrants who have now been arrested.

“Torture, sexual violence and blackmail are widespread in Libyan detention centers,” said the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Libya.

Transit country for migrants

A Libyan government official said the authorities would deport “as many migrants as possible” to their home countries. Many have lived illegally in Libya for years.

Activist Lamlum said many of the arrested migrants were registered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) as refugees or asylum seekers. The UNHCR did not comment at first.

For years, Libya has been a transit country for migrants from countries in Africa and the Middle East who fled war and poverty in their homeland and hope for a better life in Europe.

The country slipped into civil war and chaos as a result of a NATO-backed uprising, at the end of which the long-time autocrat Muammar al-Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.

Elections are scheduled for December 24th.