Rome, March 20: Over 3000 migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya by the Italian coastguards on Sunday as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. This rescue operation by Italian coastguard can be said as the biggest single-day rescue operations to date appeared to have been concluded on Saturday without any reports of casualties.
The Italian coastguard official said in the statement that after some calm days, migrants were arriving in large numbers, taking advantage of a window of favorable weather. The official further stated the details of the rescue operation and said two navy ships, the Cigala Fulgosi and the Vega, picked up 507 and 432 migrants respectively from two wooden boats in danger of sinking just off Libya.
The coastguard official said its patrol boats had boarded a total of just less than 1,000 people from various unseaworthy fishing boats and inflatables that had left Libya overnight on Friday-Saturday. At least another 1,000 rescued migrants and refugees were reported to be headed for Italian ports on other boats as the wave of new arrivals triggered increasingly virulent attacks on centre-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s handling of the migration crisis.
The rescued migrants included 311, with a newborn baby, were also on a boat belonging to humanitarian group Medecins Sans Frontieres that was expected to dock on Monday in Vibo Valentia in Calabria, according to port authorities there. A further 370 had been picked up by the Italian customs police and were headed for Messina in Sicily, while the Norwegian boat Siem Pilot was also carrying hundreds of people to port.
However, according to the Italian government, 16,206 people have been rescued in the sea by 18th of March this year, compared to 11,911 by the same time last year. Notably, just over 170,000 migrants and refugees from Africa, the Middle East and south Asia landed at Italy’s southern ports in 2014 after being rescued in the Mediterranean, while the total for 2015 has already topped 104,000.
Interestingly, a further 135,000-plus have landed in Greece since January, and unfortunately more than 2,300 people have died at sea while trying to make it to Europe with the help of traffickers. Importantly, Humanitarian organizations have called on European governments to shoulder more of the burden of absorbing the waves of asylum-seeking migrants and to help create safer routes for them to reach Europe.