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UN Angry After Hundreds of Europe-bound Migrants Stopped at Sea, Returned to Libya

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has dubbed the Aegean sea and the Evros River the “shield of Europe,” referring to the ongoing battle against migrants from Turkey there.
Tens of thousands of migrants have been attempting to enter Greece over the past two weeks since Turkish President Recep Erdoğan announced that Turkey would allow them to cross their territory and attempt to enter Europe at the end of February. Greek security forces have been battling the migrants daily ever since.

The migrants have been wielding weapons such as incendiary Molotov cocktails against the Greeks, setting fire to the border fence, and the Turkish police are aiding the migrants in their efforts to break through the border by firing tear gas, as previously reported by Voice of Europe.

It said most of the migrants were taken to detention centres in Libya, where there are “serious concerns over their safety.”

Some migrants managed to escape at the disembarkation point, as the boats were brought back to shore, the IOM said.

“It is unacceptable for this to continue despite repeated calls to put an end to the return of vulnerable people to detention and abuse,” said Safa Msehli, a spokeswoman for the IOM.
Libya, which descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, has emerged as a major transit point for African and Arab migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe.

Most migrants make the perilous journey in ill-equipped and unsafe rubber boats. The IOM said earlier this month that its estimated death toll among migrants who tried to cross the Mediterranean had passed the “grim milestone” of 20,000 deaths since 2014.

In recent years, the European Union has partnered with the coast guard and other Libyan forces to stop the flow of migrants.

Rights groups say those efforts have left migrants at the mercy of brutal armed groups or confined in squalid and overcrowded detention centres that lack adequate food and water.

The EU agreed earlier this year to end an anti-migrant smuggler operation involving only surveillance aircraft and instead deploy military ships to concentrate on upholding a widely flouted UN arms embargo that’s considered key to winding down Libya’s relentless war.
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