MORE than 4,000 migrants have been rescued off Libya’s coast in 22 separate operations in one day, with rescuers finding 17 people dead aboard a rubber dinghy, Italian coastguards said yesterday.
The rescues, from 13 wooden fishing boats and nine motorised rubber dinghies, took place on Friday. In all, 4,243 rescued migrants were being brought to southern Italian harbours, including Sicily.
Smugglers are reaping millions by overcrowding unseaworthy boats with migrants on Libya’s Mediterranean coast. The migrants are fleeing war, persecution or poverty in Africa and the Middle East.
Cargo ships and Irish and German naval vessels helped Italian ships in Friday’s rescues. Italy has demanded more help from its EU partners in dealing with the problem. Last year, Italy rescued some 170,000 migrants at sea.
Italian coastguards co-ordinate rescues after receiving distress calls from migrant boats, or when the craft are spotted by military patrol boats or aircraft.