Migrants rescued from inflatable rafts off Libya

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Libya’s coast guard rescued 290 migrants clinging to inflatable rafts in two operations near Tripoli, a naval forces spokesman said.

The western coast of Libya is the main departure point for thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty to reach Italy.

A coastguard vessel rescued 87 migrants off Qarabuli, east of Tripoli, on an inflatable boat, naval forces spokesman Ayoub Qassem told Reuters. The coast guard is part of Libya’s Navy.

Another group of 203 migrants were rescued from two inflatable boats off Zlitin, 160 km east of the capital, Qassem said.

“The illegal migrants were clinging to shabby and broken boats. They were rescued by patrols of coastguards on two different vessels,” Qassem said.

The migrants were handed to anti-illegal migration department after disembarking at Khomas and Janzur, said Qassem.

They are from Arab and sub-Saharan countries and include seven women and a child.

After an Italy-backed deal, the number of crossings dropped since July 2017 when human traffickers were expelled by an armed group from smuggling hub Sabratha in western Libya.