Date: Friday, 10 March 2017
People-smugglers have been blamed for the death of 22 African migrants whose bodies were found buried on a beach in Libya.
The migrants had apparently refused to board the traffickers' boat, which was attempting to sail from the beach at Sabratah, 45 miles west of Tripoli, to Italy or Malta.
They were killed by the traffickers when they complained about the bad weather and the risks of making the hazardous journey across the Mediterranean.
The migrants (pictured) were buried by local people on the beach. They were later exhumed by the Libyan Red Cross and will get a proper burial at a cemetery in the town of Sabratah
The Libyan Red Crescent said the killings took place over the weekend.
The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirmed the deaths and said: 'There seems to have been an exchange of fire between the smugglers, which resulted in the death of 22 migrants.'
Many migrants in Libya realise how hazardous the crossing to Europe is but the traffickers will not refund the fees they pay for the journey
Six years since a revolution and NATO intervention that toppled the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has become a key departure point for clandestine migration to Europe.
Smugglers organise frequent crossings from western Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa, a 190-mile trip.
The IOM said 521 immigrants died in the Mediterranean between January 1 and March 5 this year.
European Union leaders will tomorrow discuss their plan to cut the tide of migrants from Libya to Italy but there are fears the calmer spring weather will bring a new surge of arrivals from Africa.
Arrival numbers from lawless Libya are already higher than last year - 13,500 people made the perilous voyage in January and February, compared with 9,000 in 2016.
One diplomat said: 'The numbers are already significantly higher than last year. There is growing concern. It just looks like it'll happen all over again.'
The Libya plan includes training the coastguard of the internationally recognised government in Tripoli to have it intercept people and put them back on Libyan shores, as well as funding the UN refugee and migrants agencies to improve conditions in migrant camps in Libya.
There will also be more help to send migrants back to their home countries in Africa.
Many, like perhaps those who died on the beach at Sabratah, decide the crossing is too dangerous and want to return home. But at present it is too difficult to repatriate them.