TRIPOLI – Members of the Libyan coast guard in recent hours rescued 326 people who were traveling aboard several boats in attempt to reach European soil, the northern African country’s navy said on Saturday.
The boats were located overnight between Thursday and Friday, some 20 miles (32 kilometers) off Libyan beaches to the west of capital Tripoli, according to navy spokesperson Colonel Ayub Kassem.
Kassem said the boats were detected in the early hours and packed with migrants from countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
He said the migrants – among them 63 women and 61 minors – were taken to a port where they received first aid, and were then transferred to a reception center.
The beaches between Tripoli and the border with Tunisia have over the past two years become the main bastion for human traffickers, despite the presence of European patrols in the area.
According to data from the International Organization for Migration, more than 161,000 migrants and refugees have managed to reach Europe so far this year, while around 3,000 people are believed to have gone missing at sea.