Libyan coastguard picks up 493 migrants in one week

Migrants arrive at a naval base after being rescued by Libyan coast guards in Tripoli, Libya June 2018./ Reuters

Libya’s coastguard says it picked up 493 migrants on six inflatable boats in six operations conducted within one week in areas located to the northeast and northwest of the capital, Tripoli.

Officials said the migrants, including 28 women and five children, are from sub-Saharan, Arab and Asian countries.

Coast Guard spokesman Ayoub Qassem said they were all moved to detention centres managed by the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord.

Libya is the preferred departure point for migrants seeking to reach Europe illegally, though the numbers have dropped significantly since July 2017.

The illegal migration has been fueled by human trafficking cells which have taken advantage of the political situation in the North African country.

Libya descended into chaos in 2011 after the ouster and killing of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in an operation backed by NATO.

Qassem said the migrants were taken to various detention centers: 173 to Komas, some 120 km (74.6 miles) east of Tripoli; 166 to Tripoli; 50 to Zawiya, and 104 to Zuwarah, both towns that are west of Tripoli.