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Libya: At least 65 migrants found in mass grave

March 22, 2024

The circumstances of the migrants' deaths remain unknown, the International Organization for Migration said. Libya is part of the deadly Mediterranean migratory route.

Migrants crossing the Sahara desert into Libya ride on the back of a pickup truck outside Agadez, Niger
Migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa go to Liyba in the hope of reaching EuropeImage: Joe Penney/REUTERS

The bodies of at least 65 migrants have been discovered in a mass grave in the southwest of Libya, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, on Friday.

According to the IOM, the circumstances of the deaths "remain unknown." 

"But it is believed that they died in the process of being smuggled through the desert," the agency said in a statement, adding that it is "profoundly shocked and alarmed."

The IOM said it appreciated that Libyan authorities had launched an investigation into the deaths. It urged them to "ensure a dignified recovery, identification and transfer of the remains of the deceased migrants", and notify and assist their families.

What do Libyan authorities say?

In an unverified Facebook message Monday, the Interior Ministry's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Tripoli posted drone footage of a desert area showing white markings and yellow tape around the remains of numbered bodies.

The CID said the bodies were found in the al-Jahriya Valley in the town of Al Shuwairf, about 421 kilometers (262 miles) south of Tripoli.

After DNA samples were taken, all the bodies were buried in a cemetery, the department said.

The main routes migrants take to reach Europe

Deadliest migratory route

After the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya became a transit route for migrants fleeing conflict and poverty to Europe.

According to the IOM, at least 3,129 migrants died or went missing in 2023 along the Mediterranean route, which it has dubbed "the deadliest migratory route."

Libya is home to a total of 704,369 migrants of more than 43 nationalities, according to data collected in 100 Libyan municipalities in mid-2023, the UN said.

dh/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)