102 illegal immigrants rescued off western Libyan coast

FILE PHOTO: 27 August 2019, ---: The rescue ship "Eleonore" sails on the Mediterranean with around 100 migrants on board. (Photo by Johannes Filous/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Thursday that the Libyan Coast Guard had rescued 102 illegal immigrants, including women and children, off the country’s western coast.

“A group of 102 migrants, among them 12 women and 20 children, were returned to Libya by the coast guard this evening. IOM staff are at the disembarkation point to provide assistance,” the IOM tweeted later on Thursday.

Nearly 300 migrants were rescued by the coast guard on Thursday, according to IOM.

The IOM estimates that more than 5,400 immigrants have been rescued and returned to Libya so far in 2020, compared with 9,200 in 2019.

The state of insecurity and chaos in Libya since the fall of the late leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011 makes the country a preferred point of departure for thousands of illegal immigrants who want to cross the Mediterranean Sea towards Europe.

Despite repeated international calls to close those centers, many immigrants remain detained inside shelters across Libya.

The Voluntary Humanitarian Return program, which arranges the return of illegal immigrants stranded in Libya back to their countries of origin, was run by the IOM before the Libyan authorities closed all the country’s borders as a precautionary measure against COVID-19.