Libyan coast guard intercepts more than 900 migrants – spokesman

June 17, 2017 - 9:38 AM
A boa packed with migrants crosses the Mediterranean. (Reuters file)

Libya’s coast guard intercepted 906 migrants off the western city of Sabratha on Friday, a spokesman said.

The migrants were on board several wooden and rubber boats, coast guard spokesman Ayoub Qassem said. One of the rubber boats was perforated and nearly submerged, and a wooden boat had its engine missing, he said.

The migrants were African, Asian and Arab, and included 98 women and 25 children, Qassem said.

Libya has been in turmoil for years and is the most common departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe by sea. More than 60,000 migrants have crossed the central Mediterranean route from Libya to Italy so far this year.

Smugglers pack the migrants onto ill-equipped boats that usually get picked up by European rescue vessels once they reach international waters.

However, some sink or become stranded when smugglers remove the engines for reuse, and some get turned back by the Libyan coast guard.