Sudden drop in migrant departures caused by a new force in Sabratha, which is preventing migrants from leaving, often by locking them up
Sudden drop in migrants leaving Libya
New group is preventing them from leaving
* Group made up of civilians, policemen, army figures
By Aidan Lewis and Steve Scherer
TUNIS/ROME, Aug 21 (Reuters) - An armed group is stopping migrant boats from setting off across the Mediterranean from a city west of Tripoli that has been a springboard for people smugglers, causing a sudden drop in departures over the past month, sources in the area said.
The revelation throws new light on the sharp reduction in migrant arrivals from Italy, which took over from the Aegean route as the main focus of European concerns in the crisis.
Arrivals in Italy from North Africa, the main route for migration to Europe this year, dropped by more than 50 percent in July from a year earlier, and August arrivals so far are down even further. July and August are peak months for migrant boats because of favourable sea conditions.