The deaths of 30 migrants in a revenge attack carried out by the family of a slain people smuggler in Libya prompted renewed warnings from aid groups on Friday over the dangers faced by refugees in the country.
The UN migration agency said the migrants were shot and killed in a warehouse used by people traffickers in the town of Mizdah, near the capital, Tripoli.
The shooting on Wednesday claimed the lives of 26 Bangladeshi and four African migrants, the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli said, and 11 migrants were also injured in the rampage.
The GNA said migrants had killed a local smuggler in Mizdah, prompting his family to seek revenge.
Medecins Sans Frontieres, which works to protect migrants attempting to reach the relative safety of Europe, said the incident was “yet another horrific reason of why Libya is not safe” for migrants. The aid group repeated its call for all migrants and refugees to be evacuated from the country.
Several thousand migrants from the Middle East, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are stranded in Libya in horrific conditions.
The UN and others have repeatedly warned over the perils faced by migrants in the country, particularly those languishing in squalid detention centres, where abuses are widespread.
Libya nonetheless remains a key transit point for migrants and refugees seeking to cross the Mediterranean for Europe’s southern frontier.
Wednesday’s massacre put the suffering of migrants stuck in the north African country in the spotlight just as Malta’s prime minister visited Tripoli for talks on illegal migration.
Prime Minister Robert Abela signed a memorandum of understanding on the issue with GNA leader Fayez Al Sarraj during his short trip, the GNA said.
The Maltese premier's office said the two sides had agreed to set up "two co-ordinating centres to combat human trafficking".
Mr Abela said the "solution clearly lies in concrete action on Libyan shores and its southern border".
Valetta has complained it has been overburdened with the migration pressures of Libya’s conflict, and is seeking cooperation from other European Union states to redistribute arrivals on its shores.
Mr Abela on Thursday called for European solidarity and measures to halt human trafficking, "rather than focusing just on relocation of migrants to other countries".
Malta earlier this month withdrew from the EU’s new naval mission in the Mediterranean aimed at enforcing a UN weapons embargo on Libya.
The number of people attempting the crossing to Europe has risen sharply in recent months, and the central Mediterranean route remains one of the most dangerous.
Departures from Libya increased four-fold in the first three months of this year when compared with the same period in 2019, driven by an escalation in Libya’s conflict.
Forces loyal to the Turkish-backed GNA have made gains against the Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
So far this year at least 268 migrants have died on the Mediterranean routes, according to the UN’s Missing Migrants project.