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Aerial view shows Libya's coast guard ship with migrants on deck, in Search and Rescue (SAR) zone off Libya's coast on May 11, 2019. The coast guard said it rescued 290 migrants on May 23, 2019.

HANDOUT/Reuters

Libya’s coast guard rescued 290 migrants clinging to inflatable rafts on Friday in two operations near the capital Tripoli, a naval forces spokesman said.

The western coast of Libya is the main departure point of hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing their countries from wars and poverty to reach shores of Italy.

A coastguard vessel rescued 87 migrants off Qarabuli, a town 50 km (31 miles) eastern Tripoli, on an inflatable boat, naval forces spokesman Ayoub Qassem told Reuters. The coast guard is part of Libya’s Navy.

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Another group of 203 migrants were rescued from two inflatable boats off Zlitin, a town 160 km (100 miles) east of the capital, Qassem said.

“The illegal migrants were found clinging to shabby and broken boats. They were rescued by patrols of coastguards on two different vessels,” Qassem said.

The migrants have been handed-over to anti-illegal migration department after they were disembarked at two cities of Khomas and Janzur, said Qassem.

They are from different Arab and sub-Saharan countries, including seven women and a child.

After an Italy-backed deal, the number of crossings has sharply dropped since July 2017 when human traffickers were expelled by an armed group from a smuggling hub of Sabratha city in western Tripoli.

The oil-rich North African country plunged into chaos after eight years of NATO-backed uprising that ousted the long-rule of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

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