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25 Mar, 2024 13:32

Libya discovers mass grave

A UN agency says the bodies of 65 people have been found, reportedly after they died while being smuggled across the desert
Libya discovers mass grave

A UN agency has reported the discovery of a mass grave in Libya, believed to contain the bodies of at least 65 migrants who died while being smuggled across the desert.  

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday that the exact circumstances surrounding the deaths of the individuals and their nationalities are unknown.  

The North African country has been ravaged by conflict and chaos, with an estimated approximately 700,000 migrants and refugees residing within its borders. It also serves as a transit route for individuals seeking asylum in Europe via the Mediterranean. 

The IOM called on the Libyan authorities to investigate the deaths together with UN partner agencies, “to ensure a dignified recovery, identification and transfer of the remains of the deceased migrants, and appropriately notifying and assisting their families.” 

Tripoli has already started its own investigation into the mass grave, which was found in the southwest of the country. 

According to Reuters, an unverified Facebook post on Monday features drone footage taken by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Tripoli’s Interior Ministry, and shows a desert region with white markings and yellow tape surrounding numbered bodies.  

The CID has reported that the bodies were discovered in the al-Jahriya valley in the town of Al Shuwairf, approximately 421km (262 miles) south of Tripoli.  

Earlier this month, the IOM reported that 2023 marked the deadliest year for migrants, with at least 8,565 individuals perishing on migrant routes worldwide.  

“At least 3,129 deaths and disappearances have been recorded in 2023 along the Mediterranean route,” it added.  

“Without regular pathways that provide opportunities for legal migration, such tragedies will continue to be a feature along this route,” the agency said. 

Once a prosperous country, Libya plunged into civil war after the violent overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-supported uprising in 2011.  

Many migrants seeking to reach Europe cross the country en route to the Mediterranean. Smugglers and human traffickers often take advantage, selling the migrants off into bondage. 

A CNN report in 2017 documented an alleged live slave auction in Libya, where Africans were sold off for as little as $400. 

According to a study conducted by the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix, Libya hosts 706,062 migrants from more than 44 countries, 5,000 of whom are in state custody.