Over 250 illegal immigrants trying to leave Libya in small boats for Italy have been rescued by Libya’s coastal guard, officials said on Saturday.
Libya’s western shores are the main departure point for migrants mainly from sub-Saharan countries fleeing poverty and conflict trying to reach Europe.
Arrivals to Italy have fallen by two-thirds since July from the same period last year after officials working for the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, Italy’s partner, managed to cut back human smuggling in the city of Sabratha west of the capital, Reuters reports.
The coast guard have intercepted several boats off the coast near Qaraboulli and Zliten, two towns located east of Tripoli.
“The naval forces’ Ibn Ouf vessel rescued (on Friday) illegal migrants including women, children and men … they are from different sub-Saharan and Arab countries,” Coast Guard Captain Abdulhadi Fakhal said.
“They were rescued off Qaraboulli and Zliten towns … and they are about 250 to 270 persons,” Fakhal said.
Libya has plunged into chaos since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising. A U.N.-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli has been trying to gain control of territory.