April 22, 2018 / 6:21 PM / 8 months ago

Libyan coastguards recover bodies of 11 migrants - spokesman

TRIPOLI, April 22 (Reuters) - Libyan coastguards recovered the bodies of 11 migrants who died during an attempted crossing to Italy off Libya’s western coast on Sunday, a spokesman said.

More than 80 migrants survived the incident off the western city of Sabratha and coastguards brought them back to Zawiya, about 25 km (16 miles) to the east, said naval coastguard spokesman Ayoub Qassem.

The migrants were from various sub-Saharan African countries, he said.

Libya is the most common departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe by sea. More than 600,000 crossed the central Mediterranean to Italy in the past four years, the vast majority from Libya.

Since last July there has been a sharp drop in crossings as Libyan authorities backed by Italy pressured local groups to stop smuggling and supported Libya’s coastguard to intercept those who do leave.

European powers have also pushed to reduce flows into Libya from the south and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has flown back 25,000 migrants from Libya to their home countries since the start of last year.

Some 5,330 migrants had crossed from Libya to Italy between Jan. 1 and April 20 this year, about 85 percent lower than during the same period in 2017, according to Italy’s interior ministry.

Reporting by Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, and Aidan Lewis in Tunis, Editing by William Maclean

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