Libyan authorities arrest over 200 refugees in raid

Libyan security forces detain over 200 refugees during police raid

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

Libyan security forces detains refugees during a raid in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, early on April 17, 2016.

Libyan authorities on Sunday detained more than 200 African refugees, who were preparing to make a perilous sea crossing to Europe, in an early morning raid in eastern Tripoli's al Hashan District.

Armed and masked members of the authorities in bullet-proof vests rounded up the refugees and put them on vehicles to be driven to a detention centre.

Dozens more were detained in another raid on a house in the same neighbourhood.

No force was used in either operation and there was no resistance.

An alleged people smuggler was also detained during the raids.

"After a tip-off about a people smuggler preparing a crossing to Europe by clandestine migrants [asylum seekers] the raids were carried out in a Tripoli suburb," a security official said.

"We arrested 203 illegal [undocumented] migrants [refugees] from different nationalities. They were with there with their smuggler," he said.

The French and German foreign ministers visited Tripoli on Saturday to show their support for Libya's UN-backed unity government, saying they were ready to offer training for the country's security forces and border guards if it is requested.

The West is counting on the unity government to tackle DAESH terrorists in Libya and prevent new flows of refugees heading north across the Mediterranean, though the new government's leaders are still trying to establish themselves in Tripoli.

In 2014 some 170,000 refugees arrived in Italy, and a further 153,842 in 2015, compared with around one million who made the relatively brief sea journey from Turkey to Greece last year.

The interior ministry in Rome put refugee arrivals in Italy at 23,739 since the start of the year, as of Thursday morning, compared with 19,589 by April 14, last year.

The International Organization of Migration said on Friday that nearly 6,000 refugees had reached Italy by sea in the space of four days.

The North African country has been marred by chaos since 2011, and has turned into a transit route for refugees fleeing conflict and poverty to make it to Europe, after the riots that overthrew and resulted in the killing of leader, Muammer Gaddafi,

Cross-border smuggling networks exploit the country's lawlessness and chaos to bring Syrians into Libya from Egypt or sub-Saharan refugees from neighbouring Niger, Sudan and Chad.