Libya arrests 124 refugees before heading to Europe

Coastguard official says 124 refugees including eight women preparing to cross Mediterranean to Europe arrested near Tripoli, Libya

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Refugees, including eight women and two children, sit at a security center in Tripoli's Souk al-Ahad area after their arrest by Libyan security forces on September 17, 2015

Libyan authorities have arrested more than 100 people near Tripoli as they were preparing to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, a coastguard official said. 

"We arrested 124 refugees including eight women... in Qarabulli as they prepared to head to a boat bound for Europe," he told AFP. 

"We received information about their location and it seemed that they were readying to leave so we raided the place and arrested them" on Thursday, the official said. "We will transport these African refugees to a shelter in Tripoli."

An AFP photographer saw groups of people boarding buses at a detention centre in Qarabulli, 60 kilometres east of Tripoli before they were taken to a shelter for refugees in the capital's Souq al-Ahad neighbourhood.

Refugees sit in a bus as they arrive at a security center in Tripoli'sSouk al-Ahad area after
their arrest by Libyan security forces

Libya, with a coastline of 1,770 kilometers, has for years been a stepping stone for refugees seeking a better life in Europe.

People smugglers have taken advantage of chaos in the North African country since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi to step up their lucrative business.

The arrest comes after repeated incidents of refugee boats sinking off the Libyan coast on their way to Italy often due to overcrowding on precarious vessels.



Earlier this month, Libya's coastguard said it rescued more than 100 refugees off Qarabulli after the engine on their rubber dinghy broke down.

A few days before it said it saved another 104 refugees in the same area as their Zodiac boat - built to carry up to 35 people - was about to start sinking.

More than 430,000 refugees have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year alone, the International Organisation for Migration has said.

About 2,500 people have died during the treacherous crossing.