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From sea and air, AP covers Mediterranean migrant rescues

Migrants navigate on an overcrowded wooden boat in the Central Mediterranean Sea between North Africa and the Italian island of Lampedusa, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, as seen from aboard the humanitarian aircraft Seabird. At least 23,000 people have died or disappeared trying to reach Europe since 2014, according to the United Nations' migration agency. Despite the risks, many migrants say they'd rather die trying to reach Europe than be returned to Libya. (AP Photo/Renata Brito)

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AP journalists Sam Magdy, Ahmed Hatem and Renato Brito documented migrant activity that peaked during the late summer months as many set off from Libya’s shores on dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean Sea.

Reporter Magdy and his Cairo colleague, video journalist Hatem, spent several weeks aboard a search-and-rescue ship that patrols the central Mediterranean. They witnessed the rescues of more than 60 migrants who were at risk of drowning; several of the migrants told harrowing stories of torture and abuse in migrant detention centers in Libya. The pair’s reporting was among the most in-depth coverage since the pandemic of the atrocities migrants face on the journey toward Europe.

Meanwhile,after months of trying,Barcelona-based Brito got a seat aboard a small aircraft that non-governmental rescue groups use to monitor the migrants at sea. Working all formats, Brito showed over the course of multiple flights how the crew searched for boats in distress and prodded ships in the area to take part in rescues.

The coverage coincided with the largest crackdown on migrants inside Libya in recent years,during which some 5,000 were detained by Libyan forces,reported by Magdy from the ship operated by Doctors Without Borders. The story’s release also came within days of a United Nations report that said there is evidence of possible crimes against humanity in Libya’s migrant interceptions and detentions.

AP’s multiformat work at sea and from the air saw widespread use in Europe,the Middle East and beyond. U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar,D-Minn., issued a statement just days after the story was released on the need to address the abuses migrants face in Libya.

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