Al-Hadi Mohamed Sabratha, chief of the Libyan Naval Forces’ port and coastguard, said the African refugees included women and children.

Mohamed said the rescue operation was conducted offshore of Garabulli, 60 kilometers east of the Libyan capital Tripoli, and the refugees were brought to the Department for Combatting Illegal Migration.

According to the Libyan Navy, 16,000 irregular migrants were rescued in 2017.

Ever since the collapse of the central authority in Libya in 2011, the country’s northwestern coast has become a hub for irregular migration to Italy and other countries in Europe.

Libya represents a major transit point for African migrants seeking access to Europe, especially Italy.