Sunday, May 29, 2016

1,900 migrants rescued off Libyan coast, dozens feared missing: Italian coast guard

Some 1,900 migrants and refugees were saved in rescue operation in the southern Mediterranean Sea on Friday, and dozens were feared missing, Italian officials said.

The Italian coast guard coordinated some 17 rescue missions overall in the Strait of Sicily, between Italy and Libya, which also involved three Italy's navy ships, four tug boats and a commercial vessel diverted in the area to provide first assistance.

Overall, about 1,900 people were found sailing aboard of 10 rubber dinghies, the coast guard said.

However, several dozens of other migrants were also feared to have drowned after a possible shipwreck of an overcrowded fishing boat occurred off the Libyan coasts, Italian media reported.

Rescue ships were indeed sent in a reconnaissance mission by the Italian coast guard, after receiving several help calls reporting about 350 people in the waters.

At least 130 migrants were assisted and 10 bodies were recovered in this mission, but no further information about the overall number of missing people were immediately available.

This rescue operation was still on going late on Friday.

If confirmed, it would be the third major tragedy involving migrants in the Mediterranean, in as many days.

So far this week, an estimated 10,000 migrants and refugees overall have been rescued in the southern Mediterranean by naval forces involved in the European Union (EU) naval mission EUNAVFOR MED and EU borders agency Frontex.

Some 4,100 were saved on Thursday alone.

Tens of thousands of people keep departing from the Libyan coasts, trying to reach Europe through the perilous journey in the Mediterranean, and their number has surged after the recent closure of the so-called Balkan route.

Some 40,532 people have arrived in Italy by sea from January to May 26, according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR. At least 1,512 were reported dead or missing up to the same date.
  Xinhua - globaltimes.cn
29/5/16
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