Libya stopped three boats off its coast packed with almost 300 African migrants, including a number of Gambians apparently trying to reach Europe, the state news agency Lana said on Friday.
The coastguard picked up the migrants, who mainly came from Mali, Gambia, Ghana and Senegal, northwest of the capital Tripoli late on Thursday, a spokesman told Lana.
The migrants were taken to detention centers for processing by Libya’s department for illegal migrants. Lana did not say where the Maltese-registered boats had been headed.
Hundreds of people have died in the past two months in the stream of refugees trying to enter the European Union by boat from North Africa through Lampedusa, an Italian island south of Sicily. Many come via Libya, which is struggling with growing anarchy two years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
The flow of refugees has also been fuelled by civil war in Syria and unrest in Egypt and other Arab and African countries.
Italy has increased patrols in the Mediterranean waters between its coast and Libya and Tunisia, since more than 360 mainly Eritrean migrants drowned in October when their boat capsized off Lampedusa. An estimated 200 people went missing when a second boat sank a week later.