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IN late March, as Libya’s civil war raged, loyalist soldiers forced Abu Kurke, a 23-year-old political refugee from Ethiopia, onto an inflatable boat with dozens of other African migrants and dispatched them from Tripoli’s port into the unforgiving waters of the Mediterranean.

The journey almost killed Mr. Kurke. After leaking oil, the boat went adrift between Tripoli and the Italian island of Lampedusa. A helicopter spotted it, and soldiers threw down a few bottles...
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