Libyan coastguard in major migrant rescue


Libyan coastguards picked up 948 African migrants on inflatable boats in several operations and recovered 10 bodies officials and a witness at a naval base said.

The operations brings the number, since last week, of mainly African migrants trying to head to Italy but brought back to Libya to almost two thousand.

The west coast of Libya is the major departure point for thousands of migrants fleeing wars and poverty and trying to reach Europe.

The number of crossings dropped sharply since July 2017 when an armed group expelled human traffickers from a smuggling hub after an Italy-backed deal.
“Coastguards picked up illegal migrants in different groups. The first group is 97 on an inflatable boat and the second group is 361 migrants on two inflatables,” Naval forces spokesman Ayoub Qassem told Reuters.
“The second group was taken to Khums,” Qassem said, adding both groups included 110 women and 70 children.

A witness watching the arrival of another coastguard ship at Tripoli’s Abu Sittah naval base said a third group included 490 migrants picked up off Qarabulli. Among them were 75 women and 20 children.

Most migrants try to head across the Mediterranean toward Italy, hoping they will be picked up by ships run by aid groups and taken there, although many drown before they are rescued.

Earlier this month, Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini vowed to no longer let charity ships offload rescued migrants in Italy, leaving a ship at sea for several days with more than 600 migrants until Spain offered safe harbour.

Italy criticised Malta over its refusal to take in a Dutch-flagged aid vessel with more than 230 migrants on board.