Bodies of 65 people found in mass grave in Libya: UN migration agency

The IOM believes the people were migrants who died in the process of being smuggled through the desert in Libya.

The bodies of at least 65 people have been discovered in a mass grave in southwest Libya, the United Nations’ migration agency has said.

In a statement on Friday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) noted that the circumstances of the people’s deaths and nationalities was unknown “but it is believed that they died in the process of being smuggled through the desert”.

The agency stressed that while Libyan authorities had launched an investigation into the deaths, it is important for them to “ensure a dignified recovery, identification and transfer of the remains of the deceased migrants”, and notify and assist their families.

“Each report of a missing migrant or a loss of life represents a grieving family searching for answers about their loved ones or acknowledging the tragedy of the loss,” a spokesperson of the agency said in the statement.

In an unverified message on Facebook on Monday, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ministry of Interior in Tripoli, posted drone footage of a desert area, showing white markings and yellow tape around the remains of bodies with numbers on them, the Reuters news agency reported.

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

The department added that after taking DNA samples, all the bodies were buried in a cemetery on instructions from the attorney general of the appeals chamber in Gharyan town.

More than a decade of violent instability since the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising, has helped turn Libya into a fertile ground for human traffickers, who have long been accused of abusing migrants and refugees.

The country, which is host to an estimated 600,000 migrants and refugees, is also a transit route for people seeking refuge in Europe across the Mediterranean.

Large groups of people are often put into boats that are not big enough to safely move them across the treacherous route.

Some are escaping conflict or persecution, while others dream of better opportunities in Europe. They usually land in Italy before trying to make their way to other countries, particularly in Western Europe.

According to the IOM, at least 3,129 deaths and disappearances of migrants were recorded in 2023 along the Mediterranean route, which it described as “the deadliest migratory route”.

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

Italy and other European Union governments are trying to quell the number of migrants crossing from North Africa, providing money and resources to countries like Libya and Tunisia to help stop the departures from their shores.

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