At least 71 illegal migrants rescued after four days in distress at sea were brought to shore east of Tripoli on Sunday but fled and no attempt was made to capture them, a navy official said.
Libya is a main departure point for African migrants fleeing poverty and war to reach Italy by boat, but many are intercepted at sea and brought back by the Libyan coast guard, with the approval of the European Union.
In this incident, the UN refugee agency reported an inflatable boat carrying scores of migrants capsized off Libya and the Libyan coastguard dispatched a patrol boat to search for them.
None of the migrants drowned or were hurt with two in a poor condition after four days at sea without food and water and they received medical treatment, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“After the illegal migrants were brought back to the shore, they fled,” the official said.
The incident took place in Al-Khums, east of Tripoli.
The navy official said there were no orders to use force to intercept migrants and officials did not try to move them to detention centres run by the UN-backed Government of National Accord.
A coastguard spokesman in Tripoli, Ayoub Qassem, confirmed the rescue operation saying the migrants were released after failed attempts to move them to a detention centre.