4 May 2015

Italian operation to rescue migrants saves thousands

Coastguard coordinates huge rescue operation to save migrants in Mediterranean, helping at least 6,000 to safety since Friday.

People traffickers had been taking advantage of calm weather conditions to put thousands of people to sea, often in barely seaworthy vessels.

A total of 3,690 migrants were rescued from seven wooden boats and nine rubber dinghies off the coast of Libya on Saturday, in 16 separate operations, with a further 2,861 rescued on Sunday and 220 on Friday. A coastguard source said some of the boats had a capacity of fewer than 20 passengers.

Early on Monday morning, an Italian ship dropped nearly 900 people off in Sicily. At least 1,750 people so far have died trying to cross the Mediterranean, some 20 times more than in the same period in 2014.

The number of people rescued over the weeked is expected to rise, coming close to the busiest two days for rescues so far, on 12 and 13 of April.

Italian naval frigate the Bersagliere saved 778 people from five boats south of Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost island on Saturday. The Vega rescued a further 672 people in two separate incidents on Saturday, the Italian navy said.