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UN agency says over 180 migrants intercepted off Libya coast

CAIRO (AP) — More than 180 Europe-bound migrants were intercepted by Libya’s coast guard and returned to the North African country’s Mediterranean shores, the U.N.’s migration agency said on Thursday.

A total of 187 migrants were provided emergency assistance before being taken into detention centers, International Organization for Migration tweeted.

“We maintain that the country is not a safe port and that the arbitrary detention of migrants must end,” it said.

In the years since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, war-torn Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous central Mediterranean route.

In recent years, the European Union has partnered with Libya’s coast guard and other local groups to stem such dangerous sea crossings. Rights groups, however, say those policies leave migrants at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers rife with abuses.

The Associated Press