CAIRO (AP) — Libya’s coast guard said Wednesday it intercepted around three dozen Europe-bound migrants off its Mediterranean coast and took them to a detention center that was bombed earlier this month.
Spokesman Ayoub Gassim said a rubber boat carrying 38 migrants, mostly Egyptians, was stopped on Tuesday off the coast some 65 kilometers, or 40 miles, east of the capital, Tripoli. He said the migrants were transferred to the Tajoura detention center.
The United Nations expressed deep concern Wednesday that the new migrants were taken to Tajoura, where the U.N. refugee agency says over 200 refugees and migrants are thought to be detained. It is near the front lines of the latest fighting near Tripoli between rival Libyan factions.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the Tajoura detention center had been fully evacuated as of July 10, following a July 2 airstrike that killed at least 53 refugees and migrants and injured at least 130 others.
“The humanitarian community calls on the Libyan authorities to fulfil their pledge to close the Tajoura detention center immediately,” he said.
“At least 2,500 refugees and migrants are estimated to remain in detention centers exposed to or at risk of armed conflict in and around Tripoli, out of at least 5,600 refugees and migrants held in detention centers in Libya,” Haq added.
The self-styled Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Hifter launched an offensive from eastern Libya on April 4 seeking to take Tripoli. Hifter’s forces are battling militias loosely allied with a weak, U.N.-recognized government in the capital.
The U.N. said earlier this month that the battle for Tripoli has killed more than 1,000 people.
Civil war in Libya in 2011 toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and the chaos that followed resulted in a divided country, with the U.N.-aligned administration in Tripoli overseeing the country’s west and a rival government in the east aligned with Hifter. Each is backed by an array of militias and armed groups fighting over resources and territory.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.