Migrant Rescue Operations Surge In Mediterranean

Migrant Rescue Operations Surge In Mediterranean

Ships manned by humanitarian organizations, the Italian navy and coast guard helped rescue about 5,000 boat migrants on Thursday (June 23) as calm seas returned to the Mediterranean, prompting a surge in departures from North Africa.

Rescue operations were continuing, an Italian coast guard spokesman said.

A ship run by the Malta-based humanitarian group Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), said around two dozen migrant boats were spotted in the sea about 20 nautical miles from the Libyan port city of Sabratha and that it had picked up 382 sub-Saharan African migrants from three different large rubber boats.

Another ship run by humanitarian group Doctors without Borders, plucked 1,139 migrants from 10 boats, and two other humanitarian vessels picked up 156 more.

The Italian navy said it had rescued 515 from two dinghies, German humanitarian group Sea-Watch said it had 100 on board, and the Italian coast guard, which coordinates rescue operations, said it had deployed several boats.

An agreement between Turkey and the EU to stop migrant departures for the Greek islands has reduced boat arrivals by 98 percent during the first five months of the year from the same period of 2015, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

But arrivals in Italy continue at about the same pace as last year and the deadly central Mediterranean route has already claimed 2,438 lives, IOM said.

More than 320,000 boat migrants came to Italy from North Africa in 2014-15.