At least two migrants died and around 25 others are missing after their inflatable boat capsized off the western Libyan coast, a spokesman for the coastguard said on Sunday.
A total of 73 migrants were picked up by a coastguard patrol about 14 miles off Qarabulli town, some 49 kilometers east of the capital Tripoli, spokesman Ayoub Qassem stated.
“A wrecked and inflatable boat was found without an engine and the illegal migrants were found clinging to it,” Qassem said, adding that the bodies of a woman and a child were recovered.
According to the UN migration agency IOM, 2,297 migrants died or went missing in the Mediterranean last year out of a total of 116,959 people who reached Europe by sea.
Libya’s western coast has become the main departure point for migrants especially since the county dived into chaos with the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 by a French-US-led NATO coalition.
Since July 2017, the route via Libya has turned more difficult and dangerous under an Italian-backed deal with local authorities in Sabratha town in western Libya.
The coast guard has stepped up patrols after receiving new boats from Italy as part of efforts by the far-right government there to stop migrants reaching Italian shores from Africa.