TRAPANI, ITALY (REUTERS) Migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea last week said they had been lucky to escape death and received daily beatings whilst detained by "police" in Libya.
Using the slang word "karabouche" meaning "police" to describe the forces stopping the boats, migrants said the police were taking them to jail and then asking for money in order to free them.
Last month, Reuters reported that an armed group was stopping departures from Sabratha, Libya, which had been a main springboard for smuggling for the past two years, but some boats are getting through despite their efforts and those of the coast guard.
On Thursday (Sept 14), the Aquarius rescue ship, run by humanitarian groups SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders (MSF), picked up two rubber boats carrying a total of more than 260 migrants who had left from Sabratha.
Noor Cornelissen, the humanitarian affairs officer on the Aquarius, said it was common to hear stories of migrants who are repeatedly attempting to cross the sea but get sent back to Libya.
Arrivals in Italy of rescued migrants fell by 50 per cent in July from a year earlier, and declined more than 80 per cent in August - two months that had been peak periods during the previous three years.