Oil tanker rescues 135 people off Libya coast | Daily News

Oil tanker rescues 135 people off Libya coast

Migrants and refugees prepare to sleep aboard the rescue ship Aquarius Tuesday after a rescue operation. - AFP


LIBYA: Workers on a Libyan oil tanker helped to rescue 135 people from boats in the Mediterranean on Tuesday, an AFP journalist said, hours after coastguards detained 550 would-be migrants headed for Europe.

Coastguards were alerted to people aboard makeshift vessels around 17 nautical miles (30 kilometres) from the western city of Sabratha, the journalist said. The migrants were transported to a safe zone nearer to the capital Tripoli.

Libyan coastguards earlier on Tuesday that they had detained 550 people trying to reach Europe illegally by boat. It was the second time in three days they have intercepted migrants in the same area. “Coastguards in the west who were patrolling off the Zawiya refinery on Tuesday intercepted four large inflatables carrying around 550 illegal migrants,” navy spokesman Colonel Ayoub Qassem said.

Those detained were from “several African countries” and included three children and 30 women, eight of whom are pregnant, he told AFP.

“The migrants have been handed over to the relevant authorities to be taken to detention centres,” Qassem said. On Sunday, Qassem said coastguards had intercepted seven vessels carrying around 850 migrants, again off Zawiya which is some 45 kilometres (30 miles) west of the capital Tripoli. The chaos in the North African country since Moamer Kadhafi's overthrow in 2011 has been exploited by people traffickers, with thousands of migrants trying to reach Europe from Libya just 300 kilometres (190 miles) from Italy. The onset of better weather conditions has raised fears of huge numbers of people attempting the still perilous sea crossing.

On Monday, Italy's coastguard said two Italian naval vessels and two operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) rescued around 2,000 migrants from unseaworthy boats in 15 separate operations.



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