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UN agency calls for new safe harbour rules for migrants from Libya

February 20, 2020

533337_19563971GENEVA (AFP) – The International Organization for Migration on Wednesday called on the world community to devise a “safe disembarkation mechanism” for migrants fleeing Libya, the day after a port in the capital of the war-torn country was hit by a barrage of rocket fire.

The IOM, a UN-related agency, called on nations and the European Union “to find an alternative safe disembarkation mechanism for migrants rescued fleeing Libya by boat”.

The call came after “roughly 200 migrants” were returned to Tripoli, hours after the city s main port was heavily shelled on Tuesday.

“It is time for concrete action to ensure lives rescued at sea are taken to ports of safety, and to end the system of arbitrary detention,” the IOM s Libya Chief of Mission Federico Soda said in a statement,

At least 1,700 migrants have been intercepted or rescued and returned to Libya by European coast guards since the beginning of the new year, the IOM said.

More than 3,000 others arrived in EU countries Italy and Malta, many of whom were rescued by NGO search and rescue vessels.

“The lifesaving efforts of NGO vessels operating in the Mediterranean should be recognised and any restrictions and delays on disembarkation must be lifted,” the migration agency said in its statement.

Italy has long argued that it has taken the brunt of the migrants who have reached Europe s shores.

“There is a need for increased, comprehensive and state-led search and rescue capacity. A predictable and quick disembarkation mechanism, whereby Mediterranean states take equal responsibility in providing a port of safety to people rescued at sea, should be established as a matter of urgency,” the IOM said.

On Tuesday the Tripoli port, used by merchant shipping and the navy, was cordoned off by security forces following the shelling.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the strikes but Tripoli has been the target of a months-long operation by eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar to oust the UN-recognised unity government in LIbya.

The rocket fire was the latest violation of a tenuous ceasefire that came into effect in January.

Libya s unity government announced late Tuesday it is halting its participation in UN talks aimed at brokering a lasting ceasefire.

The UN on Tuesday welcomed a new European Union naval operation to enforce the much-violated arms embargo on Libya.


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