The naval staff of the Libyan National Army (LNA) announced the interception of about 650 migrants who were trying to reach European shores.
In a statement, the LNA said announced, “as a continuation of the naval forces’ performance of their national duty to protect the Libyan coasts, the naval special forces boats arrested a bulldozer with about 650 immigrants on board. They were taken to the headquarters of the naval Special Forces in the port of Benghazi to complete the legal procedures regarding it by the competent authorities.
Major Ramzi Najm said that after receiving a report from the Naval Special Forces Operations Room, the Special Forces patrols left to the northwest of the Benghazi region. The report included that it was carrying migrants of different nationalities, including Egyptians, Syrians, Bengalis and others.
In August last year, Italian military vessels aided a boat crammed with 539 migrants off the southern island of Lampedusa. The boat was launched from Libyan shores.
Libya has in recent years emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants seeking a better quality of life in Europe. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Moammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the country’s lengthy borders with six nations.
The migrants are then packed into ill-equipped rubber boats and other vessels and set off on risky sea voyages. Officials did not say what kind of vessel was found over the weekend.
Those who have been returned are taken to detention centres rife with abuses, including forced labor, beatings, rape, and torture. The abuse often accompanies efforts to extort money from families before they are allowed to leave Libya on traffickers’ boats.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reported 1,522 dead or missing migrants in the Mediterranean this year.
Overall, the IOM says 24,871 migrants have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean since 2014, with the real number believed to be even higher given the number of shipwrecks that are not reported.