8,000 people rescued in Mediterranean in two days, as three die
Numbers attempting the crossing has increased about 20 percent on the same period last year, with 2,000 deaths reported
A Libyan coast guardsman stands on a boat during the rescue of 147 immigrants attempting to reach Europe off the coastal town of Zawiyah on 27 June (AFP)
Tuesday 27 June 2017
More than 8,000 people have been rescued in waters off Libya during the past 48 hours in difficult weather conditions, Italy’s coastguard said on Tuesday.
“On Monday, we rescued about 5,000 people from four large boats, one smaller one and 18 rubber dinghies,” a spokesman told AFP.
People were pulled to safety by coastguard vessels, military ships operating under the EU’s border agency Frontex and aid boats run by privately funded organisations. Their efforts were coordinated by the coastguard.
But three died on Monday night, a German aid group said, during rescue operations in which thousands more were pulled to safety from rickety boats.
German humanitarian group Jugend Rettet, which patrols the stretch of sea into which smugglers have sent more than half a million people over the past four years, said rescue boats in the area were struggling to cope.
“Despite all efforts, three people died from a sinking rubber boat,” Jugend Rettet wrote on Facebook.
“We reached the capacity limit of our ship, while our crew is seeing more boats on the horizon. Currently, all vessels are overloaded.”
“Together with Sea Watch and Sea Eye our crew was able to save more people last night under bad weather conditions,” the NGO tweeted on Tuesday, referring to two other nonprofit groups.
About 72,000 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea in 2017, a roughly 20 percent increase on the same period last year
About 72,000 people have arrived in Italy by sea in 2017, a roughly 20 percent increase on the same period last year, and more than 2,000 have died in the attempt, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
At Europe’s southern frontier, Italy has become the main destination for primarily sub-Saharan African and Bangladeshi migrants since the European Union struck a deal with Turkey which blocked a once-busy route to Greece.
Italy and the EU are trying to work with Libyan authorities to fight smugglers, but the same chaos which allowed the gangs to establish profitable businesses is hampering their efforts. Italy’s coastguard said it was seeing “a lot of activity” on Tuesday, “but not at the same level as on Monday”.
Spain’s Civil Guard said one of its vessels serving under Frontex’s anti-trafficking Operation Triton had rescued 133 people found on an inflatable dinghy off Libya.
Those rescued included 17 minors, two babies and 23 women, seven of whom were pregnant, it said.
The crew was coming to the assistance of two other dinghies and had been asked to assist three others, it said, adding that the vessel expected to end up with 1,300 migrants on board, “its maximum capacity”.
Traffickers on the North African coast take advantage of periods of good weather to set large numbers of people seeking passage to Europe out to sea, a notoriously dangerous crossing.
On Sunday, over 3,300 people were rescued in 31 separate operations, while two bodies were recovered.
The record for people rescued on a single day stands at 7,000, plucked from their unseaworthy vessels on August 29, 2016.