Libyan navy rescues 119 immigrants off western coast

Huang Panyue

TRIPOLI, March 13 (Xinhua) -- Libyan coast guard patrols on Tuesday rescued 119 illegal immigrants in western Libya in two separate operations, a navy spokesman said.

"The first operation was carried out by a coast guard patrol, rescuing 98 illegal immigrants on a broken rubber boat amid turbulent sea," Ayob Qassem, navy spokesman, told Xinhua.

"The operation was carried out 21 miles off Abu-Kammash town (near the Tunisian border), in conditions that almost caused the boat of the immigrants to sink," Qassem said.

The second operation rescued 21 migrants off the coast of the city of Sabratha, some 75 km west of the capital Tripoli. The rescued immigrants include Bangladeshis and Egyptians, Qassem added.

The navy spokesman said the rescued migrants were taken to Tripoli naval base and then handed over to the anti-illegal immigration department of Tajura in eastern Tripoli.

More than 600 migrants have been rescued by the Libyan navy since the beginning of March, according to the anti-illegal immigration department.

Libya has become the preferred departure point for illegal immigrants hoping to cross the Mediterranean into Europe, because of insecurity and chaos in the North African country following the 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Improved weather conditions have increased the flow of migrant boats from Libya towards Europe, particularly off the country's western coast.

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