UN: More Than 550 Europe-Bound Migrants Intercepted

Over 550 people, including three children had been rescued off Libya’s coast in two separate operations, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Sunday.

The UNHCR tweeted that in one of the operations, “around 500 people disembarked at Azzawiya Refinery Point after being rescued or intercepted at sea on wooden boat this morning,”

It marked the latest sea interceptions amid a surge of crossings and attempted crossings from the North African nation to European shores in recent months. It took place two days after a massive crackdown on migrants in a western Libyan town that resulted in the roundup of at least 4,000 migrants.

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In the other operation, the agency added, 56 people, including three children, were rescued after the engine on their rubber boat had broken at sea.

Libya, suffering insecurity and chaos since 2011, has been a preferred point of departure for migrants who want to cross the Mediterranean Sea to European shores.

There has been a spike in crossings and attempted crossings of the Mediterranean Sea with the goal of reaching European soil. So far this year some 44,000 people have reached Europe’s shores by crossing the Central Mediterranean from Tunisia and Libya.

As of Sept. 25, more than 25,000 people had been intercepted by the EU-trained and equipped Libyan coast guard this year and returned to the war-torn country, according to the U.N. migration agency.

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Over 1,100 migrants were reported dead or presumed dead off Libya in the first nine months of 2021.

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