US Helps Coordinate Rescue of 131 Migrants 50km Off Libya’s Coast

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The US military responded to a distress signal in the Mediterranean that resulted in the rescuing of 131 migrants. This rescue mission took place about 50 kilometers northwest of Misrata in cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard, a press release reported.

A US Air Force drone was conducting surveillance off the coast of North Africa, and located a distressed inflatable boat carrying migrants across the Mediterranean.
Tweets from Alarm Phone, a network advocating for the rescue of migrants in distress, reported that the boat was deflating, and that its motor had broken down.

The incident was relayed to AFRICOM, where Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of AFRICOM said “our routine surveillance along the North African coast allowed us to lend a helping hand. US forces have a long-standing tradition of helping mariners in distress, and providing humanitarian assistance”.

The Libyan Coast Guard eventually transferred all of the migrants safely to the shore in Tripoli, where teams from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) were waiting to assist.

“This rescue operation, with coordination and assistance from the US’ European Command, was a team effort on behalf of people in distress. It highlights the level of cooperation we’ve developed not only with our partners in Africa, but more broadly in the region”, said Ambassador Andrew Young, deputy commander for civilian-military engagement of AFRICOM, in a press release.

Libya has been a popular departure point for migrants since the death of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. This year, 5,775 migrants have been rescued and returned to Libya, according to the IOM, in 2019, that number totaled 9,225.