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Coast Guard Intercepts more than 900 Migrants off Libya | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Illegal migrants arrive in a dinghy at a naval base after they were rescued by Libyan Coast Guard in the coastal city of Tripoli, Libya, May 6, 2017. Reuters photo

The Libyan coast guard intercepted 906 migrants who were on board several wooden and rubber boats off the western city of Sabratha on Friday, a spokesman said.

Coast guard spokesman Ayoub Qassem said that one of the rubber boats was perforated and nearly submerged, and a wooden boat had its engine missing.

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.

A security source told AFP on Tuesday that around 100 Libya-bound migrants, including women, have been rescued from the Sahara desert in Niger after being abandoned by their smugglers. 

The migrants are believed to have been hoping to travel on to Europe and were discovered by a military patrol several days ago, the source said.

“The migrants were subjected to terrible torture by their smugglers, before being abandoned without food or water,” reported the online newspaper Air Info, based in the remote town of Agadez, citing a security source.