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Libya's coastguard detains 113 migrants amid lull in Tripoli fighting between rival factions

The Libyan coastguard stopped two boats on Tuesday and one on Wednesday. [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 May, 2019

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The Libyan coastguard has stopped and detained 113 migrants trying to reach Italy over the past two days.
The Libyan coastguard has stopped and detained 113 migrants trying to reach Italy over the past two days, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

The western Libyan coast is a major point for mainly African migrants to depart towards Europe, fleeing conflict and poverty.

Smuggling activity had slowed following an offensive launched by forces loyal to military commander Khalifa Haftar to take the capital Tripoli, home to Libya's internationally recognised government.

The clashes eased on Tuesday after a push by the commander's Libyan National Army (LNA), backed by artillery, failed to make inroads towards the centre.

Shelling audible in central Tripoli was less intense on Wednesday than on previous days.

The World Health Organization, as of Tuesday, estimates 376 to have been killed following three weeks of clashes.

UN migration agency, International Organization for Migration (IOM), reported that the Libyan coastguard stopped two boats on Tuesday and one on Wednesday, carrying 113 migrants in total.

The Libyan sea force returned them to two western towns away from the Tripoli frontline, where they were put into detention centres.

A Libyan coastguard spokesman noted that the migrants were from Arab and sub-Saharan African countries as well as Bangladesh.

Human rights groups have accused militant groups and members of the coastguard of being involved in human trafficking.

Officials have been previously accused of mistreating detainees, who are being held in their thousands as part of plans funded by the European Union to curb smuggling.

Rights groups have also accused the bloc of complicity in the abuse, as Italy and France have provided boats for the coastguard to increase patrols, a move that reportedly helped reduce migrant departures.

The EU has given tens of millions of euros to support the Libyan coastguard, who are tasked with intercepting boats full of migrants and refugees and returning them to land, where they are then detained.

There are nearly 6,000 refugees and migrants currently being held in detention camps in Libya. More than 2,700 are in areas affected by clashes, according to the UN.

A UN report in December referred to a "terrible litany" of violations including unlawful killings, torture, gang rape and slavery.

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