The Libyan navy rescued 252 migrants Saturday who were trying to reach Europe, in two separate operations off the country’s western coast.
“We were alerted … to the position of a migrant boat” around 30 kilometres (20 miles) off Zawiya, west of Tripoli, navy Captain Rami al-Hadi Ghomed said.
He said the 140 migrants on board, including 14 women and four children, were brought back to Tripoli’s naval base before being transferred to a detention center.
Since the 2011 fall and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, unruly Libya has become a key launching pad for migrants making desperate bids to reach Europe, often on unseaworthy vessels.
The second rescue operation took place around 50 kilometers off Garabulli, east of the capital.
The navy rescued “112 migrants, including 30 women and three children, aboard an inflatable boat,” said navy spokesman Ayoub Kacem.
Recent years have seen thousands of migrants infiltrate the vast southern border of Libya in attempts to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
The situation has deteriorated since Gadhafi‘s fall as lawlessness and insecurity have pushed more migrants already present in Libya to attempt the perilous crossing.
At least 337 migrants have died or disappeared off the coast of Libya since the start of the year, according to the International Organization for Migration. (AFP)