Rescued illegal migrants sit on the ground at a naval base in Tripoli, Libya, on March 31, 2018. The Libyan navy on Saturday rescued 125 illegal migrants en route to Europe off the coast of the city of Zuwara, 120 km west of Tripoli. (Xinhua/Hamza Turkia)
TRIPOLI, April 1 (Xinhua) -- The Libyan navy on Saturday rescued 125 illegal migrants en route to Europe off the coast of the city of Zuwara, 120 km west of Tripoli.
"As part of search and reconnaissance patrols, a distress call was received for a boat carrying migrants 25 km north (Zuwara). One hundred and twenty five migrants of African nationalities were rescued," Col. Abo-Ajela Ammar, Libyan navy commander, told Xinhua.
"The operation witnessed unique and smooth cooperation. A ship from a foreign aid organization provided medical aid to the pregnant women, including a woman in labor, on the migrant boat and received a number of vulnerable migrants who needed emergency medical care," Ammar added.
Libya is a preferred point of departure for migrants wanting to cross the Mediterranean towards European shores due to the state of insecurity and chaos that followed the 2011 uprising.
Improved weather conditions have increased the flow of migrant boats from Libya towards Europe, particularly off the west coast.
"The (summer) season does not mean illegal immigration only, it is also the season for the smuggling of fuel, drugs and unauthorized fishing. These networks exploit the weather and the calm state of the sea to carry out illegal acts in Libyan waters." said Ammar.
On the other hand, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Libya voluntarily deported 166 Nigerian migrants from Libya to their country on Saturday, as part of the organization's voluntary return program for stranded migrants.
Migrant shelters in Libya are crowded with thousands of migrants who have been rescued or arrested by the Libyan authorities. The program provides an opportunity for the migrants to return home.
Last year, IOM voluntarily deported 20,000 illegal migrants from Libya to their countries of origin.