Libyan coast guard intercepts 450 migrants bound for Europe
CAIRO (AP) — Libya’s coast guard intercepted Sunday some 460 African migrants, including dozens of children and women, in the Mediterranean Sea near its shores, a spokesman said.
A group of 97 passengers, included 22 women and 26 children, on a rubber boat was stopped Sunday off the coast of the town of Zliten, pokesman Ayoub Gassim said in a statement.
Another two boats, boarding 361 migrants including 88 women and 44 children, were intercepted off the coast of the western town of Khoms, he said.
All migrants were given humanitarian and medical aid, and were taken to a naval base in the capital, Tripoli, and a refugee camp in Khoms town, he said.
Libya has emerged as a major transit point to Europe for those fleeing poverty and civil war elsewhere in Africa. Traffickers have exploited Libya’s chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime ruler Moammar Gaddafi.
With assistance from European countries Libyan authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of migrants attempting to reach European shores.
The United Nations migration agency says more than 850 migrants have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean since the start of 2018, down from some 2,100 deaths during the same period in 2017. The agency also estimates that more than 40,000 migrants have reached Europe since January compared to around 80,000 over the same period in 2017.