Libyan coast guard rescues nearly 150 Europe-bound migrants

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Sun, 2019-05-12 23:26

CAIRO: Libya’s coast guard says it has rescued nearly 150 Europe-bound migrants, including women and children, off the country’s Mediterranean coast.

Spokesman Ayoub Gassim said Sunday that a rubber boat carrying 96 migrants, including 16 women and four children, was intercepted a day earlier off the city of Zawiya, 50 km west of Tripoli.

Gassim said another boat carrying 51 migrants was intercepted Saturday off the town of Khoms, some 120 km east of Tripoli.

He said the migrants were given humanitarian and medical aid, then taken to refugee camps.

Libya became a major conduit for African migrants and refugees fleeing to Europe after the 2011 uprising that ousted Muammar Qaddafi.

Libyan authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of migrants, with European assistance.

In another development, Spanish authorities said 52 African migrants forced their way into Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla from Morocco Sunday by climbing over a towering border fence.

About 100 migrants tried to storm the barbed wire fence at dawn but Spanish and Moroccan security force prevented “around half” from entering Melilla, Spain interior ministry in Melilla said in a statement.

One migrant was taken to a medical center to treat cuts he suffered scaling the fence while four Spanish police officers sustained bruises, it added.

Police arrested one of the migrants for assaulting an officer.

Video images published by local newspaper El Faro de Ceuta showed sweaters and jackets stuck to the razor wire that tops the border fence, left behind by the migrants.

The 52 who managed to enter Melilla were taken to a temporary migrant accommodation center where they were given new clothes.

It was the biggest assault on the border between Melilla and Morocco since October 2018, when some 300 migrants stormed the fence. About 200 migrants manged to get into Melilla that time and one died of a suspected heart attack in the attempt.

Spain’s two North African enclaves, Melilla and Ceuta, have the EU’s only land borders with Africa.

They are often used as entry points into Europe for African migrants, who either climb over their border fences or try to swim along the coast.

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