About 1,500 migrants rescued at sea in two days – coast guard


About 1,500 people have been rescued in the Mediterranean over the weekend, the Italian coast guard said on Monday.

Over 900 migrants and refugees were found on Sunday, while sailing aboard three inflatable crafts and three migrant boats in the central Mediterranean, the coast guard said in a statement.

They were rescued by a Spanish ship operating within the European Union (EU) naval mission EUNAVFOR MED, with the help of some private commercial vessels.

A previous group of some 600 people had been saved on Saturday, during nine separate operations mainly carried out by Italy’s navy and coast guard ships.

Before these weekend’s missions, more than 1,300 people had been saved in 13 separate operations on Friday, according to Italy’s coast guard coordinating all rescue efforts in the central Mediterranean.

Overall, the number of migrants and asylum seekers pulled to safety since Wednesday last week reached at least 4,500.

The sea route from the coasts of Libya to southern Italy is currently the major path for those trying to enter Europe to escape poverty, violence or wars. This route saw the passage of over 180,000 people in 2016, whose arrivals were all registered in Italy.

The alternative paths running through Greece, or the Balkans, were shut last year, leaving the dangerous sea crossing as only major option.

On Feb. 2, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj signed an agreement aimed at tackling the flows starting from the Libyan coasts, and the illegal people smuggling.

The three-year deal will see the creation of temporary camps for illegal migrants on Libya’s soil. Officials from the Libyan Interior Ministry would be in charge of the camps, with the European Union (EU) providing the necessary funds, and Italy ensuring medical assistance.

Illegal migrants in such camps would be asked to agree to voluntary return to their own countries, or would face deportation, according to the deal draft provided by Italy’s government.

So far, Italy has registered 8,268 arrivals since Jan. 1, compared to 9,101 arrivals in the same period of last year, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR stated. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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