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Migrant boats not fit for sea

Mirwan Issam Abudib said European-led rescue operations encouraged more refugees to make the perilous crossing.

Mr Abudib, deputy commander of the coastguard at the port of Zuwarah, said: “I blame Nato and the EU for many of these deaths.

“Their rescue ships from Operation Sophia and such-like now push to the 12 nautical mile limit of our territorial waters.

“The migrants respond to this by trying to cross in greater numbers and the smugglers respond by sending them to sea in s******* and s******* craft, designed to stay afloat for a few hours only.

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Libyan coastguard tackling African migrant crossing

“The more are drawn, the more try. The worse their craft, the more they die.”

The more are drawn, the more try. The worse their craft, the more they die

Mirwan Issam Abudib

His comments came after more than 100 dead bodies were washed up on the Libyan coast.

In a separate incident 340 people were plucked from the Mediterranean after a migrant boat capsized off Crete.

The wooden boat that sank was thought to be holding around 700 migrants when it started taking on water around 75 nautical miles south of the Greek holiday island.

Mother holds her baby in relief ashoreGETTY

Surviving the sea crossing brings instant relief

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NATO conference in Brussels

The 90ft fishing vessel was spotted by a passing ship. Greece launched a rescue operation involving two patrol boats, a military plane and three helicopters.

It is unclear from where exactly the smuggling vessel set sail but it is thought it was heading for Greece or Italy.

Estimates suggest almost 200,000 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea so far this year. The main routes were to Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain.

There are also signs increasing numbers from sub-Saharan Africa are crossing the Mediterranean in a bid to reach mainland Europe.

Hundreds of thousands of mainly Syrian refugees crossed the short but precarious sea corridor to Greece from Turkey last year in small inflatable boats, but route was sealed off after an EU-Turkey clampdown in March.

Better weather has led to a surge in the numbers trying to reach Italy from Libya, where people-smugglers operate with impunity because of the political chaos.