The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Monday that some 600 illegal migrants have been rescued off Libya’s western coast.

“Some 600 people were returned today to Tripoli and to Zawiya by Libyan Coast Guard, among them many women and children,” the Agency said in a tweet.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a total of 11,891 illegal immigrants were rescued and returned to Libya last year, Xinhua news agency reported.

The IOM added that 381 migrants died and 597 went missing on the Central Mediterranean route during the same period.

Libya has become a preferred point of departure for thousands of illegal immigrants who attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach European shores.

Rescued migrants end up inside overcrowded reception centres across Libya, despite repeated international calls to close them.

–IANS

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