Mi­grant res­cue op­er­a­tion un­der­way in Europe sea

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Nearly 3,500 mi­grants were res­cued Satur­day from 15 boats off the coast of Libya, Italy’s coast­guard said.

The boats — nine wooden boats thought to be con­verted fish­ing ves­sels and six large rub­ber dinghies — were all found drift­ing around 45 miles off the Libyan coast af­ter is­su­ing dis­tress calls via satel­lite phone on Satur­day morn­ing, the coast­guard said.

Boats from the Ital­ian, Ger­man and Ir­ish navies took part in the res­cue op­er­a­tion, which was co­or­di­nated in its ini­tial stages by MOAS, a pri­vately-funded res­cue op­er­a­tion op­er­at­ing out of Malta in part­ner­ship with the Doc­tors with­out Bor­ders (MSF) char­ity.

The ex­act num­ber of mi­grants res­cued was put at 3,480 by the coast­guard and there were no re­ports of ca­su­al­ties. One Ital­ian navy boat which was fer­ry­ing 475 mi­grants to Si­cily re­ported that it had seven preg­nant women amongst its hu­man cargo.

The num­ber of mi­grants at­tempt­ing to reach Italy on boats or­ga­nized by peo­ple traf­fick­ers has in­creased by over 10 per­cent in the first five months of 2015, sug­gest­ing last year’s fig­ure of 170,000 mi­grants land­ing in Italy will be sur­passed.

Nearly 1,800 mi­grants are thought to have drowned at­tempt­ing to make the cross­ing since the start of this year, in­clud­ing some 800 in one sink­ing that was the big­gest mar­itime dis­as­ter in the Mediter­ranean since World War II.

That dis­as­ter prompted Euro­pean gov­ern­ments to sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease search and res­cue op­er­a­tions be­tween Italy and North Africa but they have been un­able to agree on a longer-term strat­egy to ease the migration cri­sis which aid work­ers blame on con­flicts that have cre­ated more dis­placed peo­ple around the world than at any time since the end of WWII.

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