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Mediterranean migrant crisis: Thousands of migrants rescued at sea

More than 5,800 migrants have been rescued and 10 bodies recovered off the Libyan coast over the weekend, the Italian coastguard says.

The survivors were picked up from wooden and rubber boats, in 17 separate operations by Italian and French ships.

The migrants are now being taken to Italy. Rescue missions are continuing.

At least 1,750 people have died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean, a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014 when 96 people died.

The weekend rescue operation is thought to be the biggest mission of its kind so far this year.

Many more migrants are expected to make the crossing in the coming weeks as smugglers take advantage of calmer weather.

In a separate incident on Sunday, three people died when a boat carrying migrants to Europe sank off Egypt’s coast, according to Egyptian state media. Thirty-one migrants were reportedly rescued.

Video grab showing an Italian coastguard taking part in a rescue operation of a boat carrying 397 migrants on 2 May 2015, in the Mediterranean Sea (released by the Italian coastguard)
The Italian coastguard rescues 397 migrants on one boat on Saturday
Rescued migrants arrives in the harbour of Lampedusa, Southern Italy, Saturday, May 2, 2015.
Rescued migrants arrive on the island of Lampedusa, southern Italy, on Saturday

At an emergency meeting last month to discuss the crisis, European Union leaders said they would triple the funding for rescue operations run by EU border agency Frontex, and threatened to target smugglers’ boats with military strikes.

Italy abandoned its Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue mission last year after some EU members – including the UK – said they could not afford to fund it.

The decision was widely criticised in April after more than 800 people died when a single boat sank – the deadliest capsize recorded in the Mediterranean.

Some of the 27 survivors of the accident described being beaten by smugglers in an attempt to load more migrants on to the boat

The overloaded vessel crashed into a cargo ship shortly after leaving Libya, causing panic on board. The dead were mostly Syrians, Eritreans, and Somalis – adults and children.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has said “much more” needs to be done beyond the EU’s current spending plans to tackle the migration crisis in the Mediterranean.

 

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