Libya’s coastguard picked up 301 African migrants on Thursday from two inflatable boats after their engines failed near its western coast, a spokesman said.
Libya is a main departure point for migrants fleeing wars and poverty trying to reach European countries, though crossings have dropped sharply since last July due to a more active coastguard supported by the European Union.
“The coastguard rescued 301 migrants early this morning, including three women and 46 children from 12 different sub-Saharan countries,” its spokesman Ayoub Qassem told Reuters.
“The illegal migrants were on board two big rubber boats,” Qassem said. “The engines of the two boats stopped working in the middle of sea.”
On Wednesday, one body was recovered and a group of 82 migrants were rescued off Tripoli’s eastern Tajoura suburb, he also said.
Most migrants try to head across the Mediterranean toward Italy, hoping they will be picked up by ships run by aid groups and taken there, although many drown before they are rescued.
A new Italian government which includes the anti-immigrant League party has already turned away one such ship. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said a Dutch-flagged charity ship which picked up more than 200 migrants off the Libyan coast on Thursday should take them to the Netherlands.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will try on Sunday to persuade other EU leaders to agree a common policy on migrants although her chances of winning support from all 28 member states are slim.