Almost 9000 migrants rescued in Mediterranean over weekend - IOM

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that almost 9,000 migrants were rescued over the past long weekend by individual non-government organizations (NGOs) and by the international flotilla, a United Nations spokesman told reporters here Tuesday.

Nearly 30 migrants have been found dead in a boat drifting off the coast of Libya as the number of refugees dying in attempts to reach Europe reach record highs. Thirteen dead bodies, including a pregnant woman and small child, were also recovered by NGOs and the Italian coast guard.

Nonprofits helped rescue more than 2,000 refugees on the Mediterranean Sea over the weekend.

The higher number of deaths at this point in 2016 is largely due to deaths on the Eastern Mediterranean route, in which 376 deaths were recorded between January and April 18, 2016, compared to only 14 so far this year.

Flavio di Giacomo, an IOM spokesman in Italy, said the vessels' imminent arrival could be driving a dramatic increase in attempted crossings that saw more than 8,300 people arrested from 55 boats over the Easter weekend.

They came by boat rescued from stormy Mediterranean seas by the Italian coast guard and also various worldwide aid organizations.

Both Frontex and a Sicilian prosecutor have said NGOs should not be working so close to Libya because they make it too easy for migrants to come to Europe, adding that some NGOs may be in contact with smugglers.

Warm weather and calm seas usually spur smugglers to send migrants across the Mediterranean come spring. Most, though, don't understand that this could be just one more step in an impossible dream.

Joel Millman, from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), said that boat's engine was believed to have been removed at sea, possibly by smugglers or armed gangs. "Border control is not the solution, we need to allow people to arrive in safe and legal ways - this is the only way to fight human trafficking".

Cooper says there are both "push and pull" factors at play in the Libyan migration saga, with wars, poverty and starvation pushing the migrants to Libya and the relative ease with which they then can reach Europe pulling them to make the risky crossing.

More than 1,400 of the rescued were saved by European border and coast guard agency Frontex, which said it was involved in 13 search-and-rescue operations over the past three days.

  • Salvatore Jensen