IOM: More than 200 illegal immigrants rescued off Libyan coast

FILE PHOTO: 31 August 2019, ---: Around 100 migrants stand and lie tightly packed on deck of the rescue ship "Eleonore" in the early hours of the morning. The "Eleonore" took in the migrants on 26.08.2019 off the Libyan coast. The people were rescued while their boat was sinking, said Axel Steier, spokesman for the Dresden aid organisation Mission Lifeline, which supports the "Eleonore". The ship continues to search for a safe haven. Photo: Johannes Filous/dpa (Photo by Johannes Filous/picture alliance via Getty Images)
FILE – In this Jan. 15, 2020 file photo, men from Bangladesh disembark from the Open Arms rescue vessel at the port of Messina after being rescued on Friday off the Libyan coast, in Sicily, Italy. The European Union announced Tuesday, March 31, 2020 the launch of a new naval mission in the Mediterranean Sea aimed at enforcing the U.N arms embargo on Libya, after Italy blocked a previous operation claiming that the warships attracted migrants. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios, File)

More than 200 illegal immigrants were rescued off the Libyan coast on Thursday, said the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“200+ migrants were just returned to Libya. In the past few days, six boats carrying 500+ migrants departed from Libya. Most of them were returned by the coast guard,” IOM tweeted.

The rescued immigrants, including women and children, were still on the Libyan coast guard’s vessel and have not disembarked yet due to fighting in the area, IOM said.

“IOM reiterates its call to end returns to Libya. A safe disembarkation mechanism is needed,” IOM demanded.

Libya has become a preferred departure point for migrants hoping to cross the Mediterranean Sea toward European shores.

IOM has repeatedly said that Libya is not a safe port for immigrants’ disembarkation due to the deteriorating security condition in the country.

IOM estimates that there are currently 650,000 illegal immigrants in Libya, many of whom lack medical care and basic needs.