March 4, 2009 / 8:26 PM / 10 years ago

Libya rescues 300 migrants from boat to Italy

TRIPOLI, March 4 (Reuters) - Libyan coastguards rescued 300 migrants, including many women and children, when the rickety boat carrying them to Italy broke down off the coastal town of Tajura, near Tripoli, the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday.

Libya, a popular departure point for African migrants trying to reach Europe, signed a new accord with Italy last month to strengthen their efforts to stem the flow of illegal migration to southern Europe.

Coastguard and emergency service workers rushed to save the migrants on Tuesday after they sent Mayday signals from their decrepit boat to the maritime authorities, the ministry said in a statement carried by the state news agency Jana.

Officials provided the rescued migrants with humanitarian assistance, the statement said, but did not say whether they had been detained or what condition they were in.

Hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants from various African countries live in Libya, taking odd jobs until they earn enough money to pay smugglers for a place on a boat that will try to take them to Italy, always a risky venture, Libyan officials say. (Writing by Lamine Ghanmi; editing by Tim Pearce)

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