The coast guard on Saturday turned back more than 150 refugees off the Libyan coast, between the towns of Al Khoms and Garabulli, east of Tripoli, who had been trying to reach Italy by boat.
The captain of the Libyan ship that returned the refugees to a Tripoli port, Colonel Abdelhamid Adengouz, said they had been saved from drowning in rough conditions. “The migrants were saved from death,” he said.
Adengouz also said “an Italian ship” helped the Libyan coast guard in the mission.
The development comes amid a decline in the number of refugees taking perilous journeys across the Mediterranean. The decline has been largely attributed to the Libyan unity government authorities initiating a crackdown on human trafficking to Europe. The Libyan officials have ordered the country’s coast guard units, which have received training and technical support from the European Union member states — Italy in particular — to step up their efforts to spot and intercept boats transporting refugees.
As a result of the new initiative, thousands of asylum seekers have been intercepted.
The refugees are then registered with international agencies before being taken to detention centers where some are offered the chance to return home while others remain in detention.
The Libya-Italy route became one of the major passageways for asylum seekers to Europe after the ouster and death of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Local human traffickers took advantage of a security vacuum in the conflict-ridden country and sailed hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers — packed onto unseaworthy boats and dinghies — across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
source: press tv