Tripoli: Libya’s coastguards said they rescued more than 100 African migrants on an overloaded rubber dinghy bound for Europe that was about to sink off the coast of Tripoli on Thursday.
“We rescued 104 African migrants, including 14 women. Most of them were from Sierra Leone and Nigeria,” Lieutenant Mohamad Dandi of the Tripoli coastguard told AFP.
He said the rescue operation took place shortly after midnight at a distance of seven nautical miles off Garabulli, 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of the Libyan capital.
The migrants were on a Zodiac built to carry up to 35 people and the boat was about to start sinking because of a puncture when the coastguards intervened, he said.
The migrants were seen disembarking at a naval station in Tripoli.
Libya, with a coastline of 1,770 kilometres (more than 1,000 miles), has for years been a stepping stone for Africans seeking a better life in Europe.
Most head for Italy’s Lampedusa island which is 300 kilometres from Libya.
People smugglers have taken advantage of chaos in Libya since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi to step up their lucrative business.
In exchange for steep fees, they take would-be migrants on board rickety boats for the treacherous Mediterranean crossing.
About 2,500 people have died at sea trying to reach Europe this year alone.
Only last week, a boat transporting 400 migrants sank off the Libyan port of Zuwara, 160 kilometres west of Tripoli, with only half of its passengers rescued from the waves.