Libya coastguard intercepts Europe-bound migrants

The EU-funded coastguard says it has intercepted 577 migrants at sea so far in August

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 22, 2018 migrants onboard an inflatible boat wait for being rescued off the coast of Libya by Proactiva Open Arms organisation. The Spanish government announced on August 15, 2019 that it is willing to welcome a portion of the migrants rescued in the Mediterranean by the ship of the Spanish NGO Open Arms, on condition that a distribution agreement between several European countries is reached. / AFP / Olmo CALVO
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Libya’s coastguard said it intercepted 57 Europe-bound migrants off the country’s Mediterranean coast.

Spokesman Ayoub Gassim said a wooden boat carrying 53 Ethiopian migrants, including 17 women and nine children, and four Egyptian migrants was stopped on Saturday off the coastal town of Zawiya. The town is about 48 kilometres west of the capital, Tripoli.

He said the migrants were given humanitarian and medical assistance before being taken to a detention centre in Zawiya.

Libya’s coastguard says it has intercepted 577 migrants at sea so far in August.

The country slid into chaos after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Muammar Qaddafi. It has become a major transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East to Europe.

Libya is divided between the UN-backed government in Tripoli and the rival eastern administration in Tobruk.

The eastern Libyan National Army has been battling Tripoli militias in an offensive launched in April to take the capital.

On Sunday, the UN said LNA air strikes had seriously damaged a civilian airport in western Libya.

Last week, the LNA said it had twice bombed the airport of Zuwara, a town west of Tripoli, saying its targets were hangars used by Turkish drones.

In a statement, the UN Libya mission said it had visited Zuwara airport and found no military infrastructure or assets.

The LNA also flew late on Saturday several air strikes against an airbase in the western city of Misurata, whose forces are helping to defend Tripoli, residents said.

“Three massive explosions could be heard,” one said.

The fighting has so far killed hundreds and displaced thousands.