African, European leaders told about 700k would-be migrants in Libya

Libyan authorities have indicated they’re holding between 400,000 and 700,000 people that were stopped from crossing to Europe.

FILE: Men evacuate a rubber boat with the help of the crew of the Topaz Responder ship run by Maltese NGO Moas and the Italian Red Cross during a rescue operation of migrants and refugees on 3 November 2016 off the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean Sea. Picture: AFP.

PRETORIA - Having spent the week in Abidjan agonising over how to secure and repatriate would-be migrants held in Libya, African and European leaders now have an idea of the numbers they’re dealing with.

It could be approaching three-quarters of a million.

African Union Commission head Moussa Faki Mahamat has spoken to the Libyan authorities who’ve indicated they’re holding between 400,000 and 700,000 people that were stopped from making the hazardous Mediterranean crossing to Europe.

Aware of the global horror and condemnation following evidence that some of the detainees have been sold into slavery, the Libyans are desperate to end the problem.

They’re saying a camp in Tripoli holding 3,800 people must be emptied as soon as possible.

Mahamat says he’s been told there are 42 more camps, some with even more desperate captives.