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VATICAN CITY – The Latest on immigration into Europe (all times local):
Libya’s coast guard says it has intercepted 40 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, near its shores, bound for Europe.
Coast guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim says a boat carrying 31 men, eight women and a child was stopped on Saturday off the coast of the western city of Zuwara. He said Sunday that the migrants — who are from Morocco, Egypt, Syria and Nigeria, were taken to a naval base in Tripoli.
Libya has emerged as a major transit point to Europe for people fleeing poverty and war in Africa and the Mideast, as human traffickers take advantage of the country’s lawlessness.
Libyan authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of migrants with the help of training and money from European nations. Aid workers, however, say migrants who are returned to Libya often risk facing beatings, rape or slavery.
Pope Francis has lamented the latest migrant deaths in shipwrecks of smugglers’ boats and entreated nations to act swiftly to prevent more tragedies.
Francis in his traditional Sunday appearance to faithful in St. Peter’s Square expressed sorrow over recent deaths in the Mediterranean Sea and assured victims’ loved ones of his prayers.
He called on “the international community to act decisively and quickly so similar tragedies aren’t repeated” and said the “safety, respect of rights and the dignity of all must be guaranteed.”
Far fewer migrants have arrived in Italy this year compared to the same period in 2017, but U.N. refugee officials say recent crossings have been deadlier.
With Italy’s new populist government and Malta not allowing aid groups’ boats to dock, rescued migrants lately have been stranded at sea for days.
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