Wednesday 28 June 2017

Italy says 10 migrants die, 4,500 rescued in ongoing mission

* All migrants to be brought to Italian ports
* Smugglers taking advantage of mild spring weather
* Three migrants die in shipwreck off of Egyptian coast

Migrants wait to disembark from the Italian Coast Guard ship Fiorillo, at the Catania harbor, Sicily yesterday.
Migrants wait to disembark from the Italian Coast Guard ship Fiorillo, at the Catania harbor, Sicily yesterday.
Migrants celebrate aboard the Italian Coast Guard vessel Denaro after being rescued off the Libyan coast in this picture released yesterday. Photo: AP
Rescued migrants line up after disembarking from the Italian Navy vessel "Bettica" in the harbor of Augusta, Sicily, southern Italy. Photo: AP
An officer feeds a baby as rescued migrants disembark from an Italian Navy vessel in the harbor of Augusta, Sicily, Southern Italy. Photo: AP
Two hundred black body bags lined up on Brighton beach in East Sussex by campaigners highlighting Britain's "shameful" response to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean

Steve Scherer

Nearly 4,500 migrants were plucked from boats off the coast of Libya over the weekend and 10 bodies were recovered, Italy's coast guard and navy said, in what looked to be the biggest rescue mission of its kind so far this year.

Two weeks after nearly 900 boat people drowned in the worst Mediterranean shipwreck in living memory, the flow of people from Africa desperate to reach a better life in Europe has accelerated, as people smugglers take advantage of calmer seas.

Seven bodies were found on two large rubber boats packed with migrants and rescuers plucked from the sea the corpses of three others who had jumped into the water when they saw a merchant ship approaching, the coast guard said.

Separately, authorities in Egypt said that three died when a migrant boat attempting to reach Greece sank off its coast. Thirty-one people were rescued.

Read more here: 3,600 migrants rescued in 17 different operations off Italian coast yesterday 

Some 10 Italian vessels, four private boats and a French ship acting on behalf of the European border control agency took part in the rescue off Libya, coordinated by Italy, the country that receives the biggest number of Mediterranean migrants.

The private Migrant Offshore Aid Station, which runs one rescue ship in partnership with Doctors Without Borders, said on Twitter it had saved 369 migrants, mainly from Eritrea, from a single overcrowded wooden boat.

DISAGREEMENT

All of those rescued were being brought to Italian shores, some already arriving at Lampedusa, Italy's southernmost island, and others at Trapani, Sicily. More were to be brought ashore overnight and on Monday.

Shocked by last month's record disaster, European Union leaders agreed to triple funding for the EU sea patrol mission Triton, but there is still disagreement on what to do with the people fleeing conflict and poverty in various parts of Africa and the Middle East.

Read more here: Italy rescues migrants on 16 boats 

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said in a newspaper interview on Sunday that the EU should set up a quota system whereby member countries agree to take in more refugees in order to relieve some of the pressure on Italy, Greece and Malta.

But Austria's proposal is likely to face tough opposition from some members states, including Britain and Hungary.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday that EU states should be allowed to set their own rules on migrants, and that Hungary did not want any of them.

Growing lawlessness and anarchy in Libya is giving free hand to people smugglers who make an average of 80,000 euros ($90,000) from each boatload, according to an ongoing investigation by an Italian court.

Mild spring weather and calm summer seas are expected to push total arrivals in Italy for 2015 to 200,000, an increase of 30,000 on last year, according to an Interior Ministry projection. Almost 2,000 are estimated to have perished during the crossing already this year.

Reuters

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