Libya says it has intercepted over 900 refugees bound for Europe off the western city of Sabratha. According to Col. Ayoub Qassim, the Libyan navy spokesman, coastguard unites caught 906 refugees, including 92 women and 25 children, in an operation conducted in the Mediterranean Sea some seven kilometers off the coast of Sabratha on Friday.
He went on to say that one of the rubber boats had been perforated and almost submerged, and a wooden boat remained idle as its engine was removed, adding that the refugees were African, Asian and Arab.
Smugglers, exploiting the chaos in Libya caused by the 2011 uprising, pack desperate refugees and asylum seekers onto ill-equipped boats, which are usually intercepted by European vessels once they enter international waters.
However, some other boats capsize or become stranded when people traffickers remove the engines for reuse. A number of other illegal boats get turned back by the Libyan coastguard. Figures from the International Organization for Migration show that over 80 percent of the 60,000 refugees who have crossed the central Mediterranean route from crisis-hit Libya to Italy since January have set foot on Italian territory, while more than 1,500 others have lost their lives in the rough sea.
During the past few years, Libya has served as a transit point for tens of thousands of undocumented refugees trying to reach Europe by sea.
Europe has been facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict zones in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria. Many blame major European powers for the exodus, saying their policies have led to a surge in terrorism and conflicts in the Middle East, displacing the locals.