AFP reports that the Libyan coastguard intercepted multiple boats illegally carrying migrants to Europe this week.
On Tuesday, 550 people on four large rafts were detained by the coast guard. The migrants were from multiple African countries and included three children and eight pregnant women.
“Coastguards in the west who were patrolling off the Zawiya refinery Tuesday intercepted four large inflatables carrying around 550 illegal migrants,” navy spokesman Colonel Ayoub Qassem said to AFP.
This is the third large-scale rescue operation off the Libyan coast this week. On Monday, the Italian coast guard with support from MSF rescued 2,000 migrants from sinking boats in 15 separate operations. An Irish navy ship also participated in the rescues, picking up over 100 migrants. On Sunday, Libyan coast guard intercepted seven rafts carrying a total of 850 migrants.
“The migrants have been handed over to the relevant authorities to be taken to detention centers,” Qassem confirmed to AFP.
The main departure point of migrants leaving Libya appears to be Zawiya, which is 45 kilometers (30 miles) west of the capital Tripoli. This point in Libya is roughly 300 kilometers (190 miles) from Italy.
AFP estimates that 34,000 people have been rescued in the water-space between Libya and Italy since the beginning of 2016. As the weather improves in springtime, this number is expected to increase exponentially.