Migrants die in boat accident

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At least two migrants died and around 25 others were missing after an inflatable boat capsized off western Libya, a spokesman for the coastguard said.

A total of 73 migrants were picked up by a coastguard patrol about 14 miles off Qarabulli town, east of Tripoli, spokesman Ayoub Qassem said.

The bodies of a woman and a child were recovered, he added.

The migrants included 40 men, 25 women and eight children from Sudan, Kenya, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.

“A wrecked inflatable boat was found without an engine and illegal migrants were clinging to it,” Qassem said.

According to the UN migration agency IOM, 2,297 migrants died or went missing in the Mediterranean last year out of 116,959 people who reached Europe by sea.

Libya’s western coast is a main departure point for migrants as smugglers exploit the country’s chaos since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Since July 2017, smuggling networks in Libya have been disrupted under an Italian-backed deal with local authorities in the former smuggling hub Sabratha in western Libya.

The coast guard stepped up patrols after receiving new boats from Italy as part of efforts by the right-wing government to stop migrants reaching Italian shores from Africa.