Calm Seas, Greedy Smugglers: Italy Saves over 6000 Migrants

Bruno Cirelli
Aprile 21, 2017

At least seven refugees died in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya while trying to reach Europe on Sunday, a Maltese NGO and the Italian coastguard said.

"Many more people could have died in a day like this if we arrived a few hours later".

A migrant carries her baby on board a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) of the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) during a rescue operation from a wooden boat in the central Mediterranean in worldwide waters off the coast of Sabratha in Libya, April 15.

MSF used its two ship - Aquarius and Prudence - to rescue about 1,000 people in nine boats but video footage showed chaotic scenes as migrants clung on to rafts or slipped into the water. It also distributed life vests to 1,000 migrants still on smugglers' boats who are awaiting transfers to the rescue ships that will bring them to southern Italian ports.

MSF said in a series of tweets that NGOs were being forced to fill gaps in service provision left by the European Union coastguard. Italian Coast Guard confirmed that vessels were headed to the area to assist offloading some of the migrants.

An Italian coastguard spokesman said 19 rescue operations by the coastguard or ships operated by non-governmental organizations had saved a total of 2,074 people on 16 overcrowded rubber dinghies and three small wooden boats, Aljazeera reported. Zuccaro says he is not acting on behalf of Frontex, but that he is concerned that the rescue vessels are creating an open border into Europe as thousands of irregular migrants reach Italy each year. The weekend is set to be the latest marker in the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

More than 24,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy over the first three months of 2017, many more than the 18,000 people who crossed during the same time period in 2016, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Some 97 migrants are missing in that incident.

On Friday, rescue vessels worked tirelessly to rescue over 2,000 people from flimsy dinghies. "We agree. Where are Frontex boats in a day like this?"

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