Libya halts more than 400 migrants bound for Europe
People on inflatable crafts rounded up at sea off the town of Sabratha, 70 km west of the capital Tripoli
Libya’s coast guard said Saturday it intercepted more than 400 African migrants attempting to reach Europe, a day after EU leaders agreed on moves to curb mass migration from the country.
General Ayoub Qassem, the coast guard spokesman, said 431 people on inflatable crafts were rounded up between Thursday and Saturday at sea off the town of Sabratha, 70 kilometres (45 miles) west of the capital Tripoli.
“The migrants are of different African nationalities and there are a great deal of women and children among them,” he said. Italy’s coastguard said Thursday that more than 1,750 migrants had been rescued in the Mediterranean within 24 hours. Around 230 people have died en route to Europe since the start of 2017, according to the United Nations.
European Union leaders meeting Friday in Malta approved a new strategy to “break the business model” of traffickers who helped 181,000 mainly African migrants enter the EU via Libya and Italy last year.
93 migrants helped ashore in Cyprus
Meanwhile, a boat carrying more than 90 migrants believed to be from Syria was rescued off the northwest coast of Cyprus, the island’s authorities said Saturday. The vessel carrying 93 people, including 47 children, was spotted eight nautical miles from shore overnight and escorted to Kato Pyrgos in Cyprus’ Paphos region.
They will be taken to a reception centre on the outskirts of the capital Nicosia on Saturday following medical check-ups, authorities said. Local media reported that the migrants told police that they travelled from Turkey and paid $2,000 (1,850 euros) each to reach Cyprus.
EU member Cyprus lies just 100 kilometres (60 miles) off Syria but has so far avoided a mass influx of refugees from that country’s conflict. However, the Paphos area has been a frequent hotspot for traffickers from Turkey. In September and November, 83 and 128 Syrian migrants respectively were rescued there under similar circumstances.