Libyan coastguard intercepts 850 migrants at sea

Ayoub Qassem, Spokesman of Libyan Coastguards, said 850 migrants were intercepted on Sunday night off the coast near the western city of Sabratha by the coastguards.

Qassem on Monday in Tripoli said that the migrants travelling in inflatable rubber boats were from various African countries and among them were 69 women, including 11 who were pregnant, as well as 11 children.

Qassem said that Libya was a major departure point for mainly sub-Saharan African migrants trying to reach Europe through crossings arranged by people smugglers.

“Migrants are often given flimsy boats that are ill-equipped for travelling across the Mediterranean.

“The flow of migrants has increased amid the turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising against long-time Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi,” he said.

The spokesman said more than 30,000 people have already crossed on the central Mediterranean route to Italy this year, and more are expected to attempt the journey in calmer weather during the summer.

Qassem said that the International Organisation for Migration had identified 235,000 migrants in Libya, adding that the real number was likely to be much higher, between 700,000 and one million.

“Some of these stay in Libya to work before either returning home or trying to continue on toward Europe,” he said.

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