Rights groups have called for action after hundreds of Egyptians were taken from their hiding place in a warehouse in eastern Libya and detained.
Some 287 Egyptians, including 90 children, were detained following a raid on a farm south of the city of Tobruk on Sunday evening.
According to accounts given to the Libya24 website, some of the detainees paid sums amounting to 170,000 Egyptian pounds ($8,800) to smugglers in order to attempt to reach Europe.
Some said they had walked tens of kilometers across the desert to arrive at the warehouse.
Local security officials said the detainees would be transferred to an emergency centre in Tobruk, and would then be deported to Egypt through the Salloum border within the next two days.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said in a statement on Tuesday that the incident highlighted the need for authorities to tackle smuggling networks that were exploiting migrants.
“It is shocking and unfortunate to see children under the age of 12 in such a complicated situation,” said Nour Alwan, a spokesperson for the organisation.
“In any case, they cannot be held responsible because they are still unable to make decisions and assess matters.”
Alwan added that states needed to spend more resources on thwarting “any similar attempts, whether targeting children or adults, in addition to intensifying efforts to create job opportunities and improve the standard of living in the country”.
The chaos that erupted after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s government in 2011 made Libya a preferred stop for tens of thousands of people from sub-Saharan Africa, Arab states, and south Asia, mainly seeking to reach the Italian coast in Europe.
Thousands remain stranded in the north African state.
Last week, a dinghy boat carrying 27 Egyptians sank off the coast of Libya, leaving two dead and 19 missing.
According to Libyan authorities, the Egyptians were on their way to Italy via the Mediterranean.
In April, a boat sank off the coast of Tobruk in Libya, carrying more than 28 Egyptians and four Syrians. At least 22 have been reported dead, and the Libyan coast guard is still attempting to recover bodies.
According to UNHCR, more than 18,000 refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe in the first quarter of 2022. In total, 2.3 million have taken this same journey in the past eight years.
Libya, according to UNHCR, has witnessed the vast majority of reported incidents of abuse of refugees at the hands of smugglers, while those detained by authorities are also exposed to inhumane detention conditions.
Since 2014, the International Organisation for Migration has reported that 24,495 people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.