Benghazi (Reuters) – Eastern Libyan forces have expelled thousands of Egyptians who were in Libya illegally in recent days, deporting them to Egypt on foot across the land border, an Egyptian security source and an eastern Libyan security source said.
The Libyan security source said 4,000 migrants had been found during raids on people traffickers following a shootout between security forces and smugglers and they were all deported.
The Egyptian security source said only about 2,200 of the 4,000 migrants who were found by Libyan security forces were there illegally and they were the only ones deported. Most of them were Egyptians, but some held other African nationalities.
When they were deported, they were taken to a location close to the border and then walked about 2 km (1.25 miles) into Egypt, the Egyptian security source said.
Libya is home to about half a million migrants according to migration agencies, including many who hope to cross to Europe by boat. Others have settled in Libya finding work in the country’s oil-rich economy.
The number of migrants crossing to Europe from Libya has sharply increased this year according to Italy, the destination for most of the boats.
The Libyan source said security forces had destroyed a harbour used by people smugglers.
Libya has had little peace or security since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 and many migrants have faced violence and abuse at the hands of people traffickers and other armed groups.
In western areas of Libya, territory is controlled by a host of rival armed factions. Eastern Libya is controlled by commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army.