Libya deports migrants back to Egypt: official

Libya deports migrants back to Egypt: official
Libyan authorities on Wednesday said they began sending hundreds of irregular migrants to their home country Egypt.
3 min read
All of those being sent back via bus to the border with Egypt on Wednesday were men, including some children [Getty]

Libyan authorities on Wednesday began sending 350 irregular migrants to their home country Egypt, an immigration official told AFP.

War-torn Libya has become as a key departure point on North Africa's Mediterranean coast for migrants, mainly from other parts of Africa, risking dangerous sea voyages in the hope of reaching Europe.

Libya's rival administrations last year agreed on a Tripoli-based anti-immigration body tasked with coordinating deportations of foreigners who are in the country illegally.

"The body to combat illegal immigration has started the process of deporting 350 Egyptian nationals who were in an irregular situation," said migration agency spokesman, Colonel Haytham Belgassem Ammar, referring to the Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration, which is part of the interior ministry.

Already on Tuesday, the migration agency had told AFP that 323 migrants, many of them women, were sent back to Nigeria on flights from the capital Tripoli and the northwestern city of Benghazi.

"More expulsions are planned in the coming days," Ammar said.

The International Organization for Migration said it had organised two "voluntary humanitarian returns" charter flights from Libya to Nigeria on Tuesday.

In a statement on Wednesday, the IOM said there was a total of 327 migrants on the flights, more than two-thirds of them women and including 21 with medical conditions.

The UN agency says it has been implementing the scheme - arranging and financing travel for migrants and asylum-seekers in Libya wishing to leave for their respective origin countries - since October 2015.

It says it has assisted 77,000 migrants to return home to about 48 countries of origin since the start of the programme.

Libya sent 600 irregular migrants back to Egypt in November and a further 650 in December.

All of those being sent back via bus to the border with Egypt on Wednesday were men, including some children, Ammar said.

In 2023, a total 23,361 migrants of African or Asian nationality, mostly from Nigeria, were sent back to their homelands from Libya, he added.

"I was going to cross to Lampedusa in Italy when I was apprehended," one of them, 16-year-old Ziyad Salama Abdellatif, told AFP.

He said he had spent nine hours at sea before being intercepted some 120 kilometres (75 miles) off the coast of Libya.

Another, Bakri Mohamad Sobhi, who said he had entered Libya illegally in August, said he was arrested at a police checkpoint near Ras Lanuf, a coastal town near one of Libya's key oil terminals in the north, and was detained for three months.

While many Egyptians come to Libya in the hope of reaching Europe by sea, thousands of others have lived in the country illegally for years, working mainly in agriculture, construction, and commerce.

More than a decade of violence and instability since the 2011 overthrow and killing of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising helped turn the country into a fertile ground for human traffickers, who have long been accused of abuses against migrants.