Libya evacuates migrants trapped by fighting, with U.N. help

lybia_ArmyHundreds of migrants have been relocated from government-run detention centres after getting trapped by clashes between rival groups, U.N. and aid sources said on Thursday.

The migrants had been abandoned after their guards fled the fighting, which killed almost 30 people. It pitted rival groups vying for power and state funds, a recurring theme in Libya since the chaotic overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising .

Hundreds of migrants have been brought to a “safer place” from two centres run by the U.N.-backed government in the Ain Zara area in southeastern Tripoli, aid workers said.

The U.N refugee agency UNHCR “in coordination with other agencies and the Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) facilitated the transport of all persons in Ain Zara,” it said in a statement.

The migrants, mainly Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalis, were taken to a separate detention centre away from fighting. A few were still waiting to evacuate from Ain Zara, an official at another international organisation said.

Libya is the main departure point in North Africa for migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, mainly from other parts of Africa.

The number of crossings has fallen off sharply since Italy provided the coast guard with more boats and brokered deals with local groups in a smuggler hub last year.

A total of 27 people have been killed and 91 wounded, mostly civilians, since the outbreak of the fighting, the health ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Tripoli is formally controlled by the internationally recognised Government of National Accord, but armed groups working with it act with autonomy.