3,000 Migrants Rescued off Italian Coast; Two Bodies Found

Migrants, who attempted to flee the Libyan coast to head to Europe, are seen after being detained at the fishing port in the coastal city of Tripoli, Libya, June 7, 2016. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

By Steve Scherer

ROME, June 9 – More than 3,000 boat migrants have been rescued in the Mediterranean over the past two days and two bodies have been recovered, Italy’s coastguard said on Thursday.

The coastguard coordinated rescues of migrants from 15 different boats on Thursday, bringing 1,950 people to safety. Two bodies were recovered from a rubber boat. Some 1,100 migrants were rescued at sea on Wednesday.

The coastguard had no details about the nationalities of the migrants, nor about the two deaths.

All the rescues took place between Italy and Libya, where people-smugglers operate with impunity amid the chaos of civil war.

Britain’s HMS Enterprise and Germany’s FGS Frankfurt, patrolling the area as part of the European Union’s anti-people-smuggling operation, together rescued migrants from seven boats, a coastguard spokesman said.

A Doctors without Borders vessel, the Dignity 1, rescued almost 500 from four boats, while the Phoenix, run by humanitarian group Migrant Offshore Aid Station, took 243 people from two boats.

Italy is on the front line of Europe’s migration crisis, now in its third year. Almost 50,000 people have come ashore in Italy this year, about 10 percent fewer than in the same period last year, according to the Interior Ministry.

Warm weather and calm seas have led to a surge in attempted crossings over the past three weeks, and hence in the number of deaths, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Some 320 migrants are believed to have drowned off the Greek island of Crete last week. So far 2,809 deaths have been recorded this year, about 1,000 more than in the same period of last year, the IOM estimates.

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