Libyan coast guard intercepts 850 migrants attempting Mediterranean crossing

Published May 23rd, 2016 - 04:00 GMT
Migrants sit in front of a painted wall on May 19, 2016 at the Abu Salim detention centre in the Libyan capital Tripoli during a visit of United Nations' special envoy to Libya. (AFP/Mahmud Turkia)
Migrants sit in front of a painted wall on May 19, 2016 at the Abu Salim detention centre in the Libyan capital Tripoli during a visit of United Nations' special envoy to Libya. (AFP/Mahmud Turkia)

The Libyan coast guard on Sunday said it intercepted seven boats carrying about 850 migrants trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea, AFP reported.

"The coastguard in the west was patrolling the area off the Zawiya refinery and... they intercepted seven large inflatables," a navy spokesman Colonel Ayoub Qassem told AFP.

Qassem said the migrants came "from several African countries" and included 79 women - 11 of whom were pregnant  - and 11 children.

"The migrants were handed over to the authorities for transfer to shelters," he added.

Human traffickers have taken advantage of the political chaos and violence in Libya since Moammar Gaddhafi was ousted from power in 2011, smuggling migrants to Italian islands about 185 miles away from the Libyan coast.

Better weather, coupled with the closure of the migration route through Turkey and eastern Europe has raised concerns that many more will attempt the dangerous crossing.

In March, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian estimated some 800,000 migrants were waiting to make the crossing to Europe from the North African coast.


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