A record number of asylum seekers and migrants traveling in boats in the Mediterranean Sea were rescued and returned to Libya on Saturday, the UN refugee agency UNHR said in a tweet.
The agency said more than 1,000 migrants were rescued in five separate operations. UNHCR and the International Rescue Committee provided the migrants with food, water and medicine before handing them over to the Libyan authorities.
How many migrants leave Libya for Europe each year?
Thousands of migrants leave Libya every year on wooden boats and rubber dinghies unfit for navigation to Europe. Many asylum seekers die during the journey.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says more than 10,000 migrants have so far been rescued and returned to Libya in 2021.
At least 180 migrants from Libya have died this year, according to IOM, and hundreds are missing.
Many migrants from Libya are exploited by smugglers, who facilitate travel in exchange for money. There are many reports of torture and abuse of migrants at the hands of smugglers.
Migrants also leave for Europe via Tunisia
Migrants also make the sea voyage to Europe from Tunisia. On Friday, the Tunisian navy and coastguard rescued 54 migrants at sea, taking them to the port city of Ben Gardane before transferring them to a detention center.
A cemetery in southern Tunisia is dedicated to migrants who died at sea.
Many migrants who embark by sea from Libya and Tunisia are in fact from sub-Saharan Africa.
Migrants may flee war, terrorism, authoritarian governments or for other reasons, such as seeking better economic opportunities in Europe.
wd / wmr (dpa, AFP)