Italian rescue ships save about 2000 migrants

Seven migrants died in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya while trying to reach Europe on Sunday, an official of a rescue ship has said.

The migrants and refugees were rescued by Italian Coast Guard boats, passing merchant ships and more than a dozen NGO charity ships that have filled the vacuum created when Italy's Mare Nostrum search and rescue program ended in 2014 because of budget concerns.

According to IOM, so far this year almost 800 migrants have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in the often unseaworthy vessels provided by human traffickers.

Those frustrations are echoed by the other NGOs, with numerous rescue operators tweeting accusations directly against the European Union and Frontex.

Frontex has been contacted for comment.

A total of 2,074 people brought to safety in a day of non-stop rescues of those stranded in the Mediterranean Sea.

Rescuers said a teenager had been found dead in one of the rubber boats on Friday during the "very difficult" rescues.

The humanitarian group MOAS tweeted saying it had helped several hundred migrants in dinghies and wooden boats over a 24 hour period.

As weather conditions deteriorated, NGOs urged more vessels to head to the region, with their own already crammed with around 4,500 people picked up from unseaworthy vessels the previous day in 35 operations.

At least eight people died, including a pregnant woman.

Charities such as Medicins Sans Frontieres criticized the European Union response to the growing crisis in the Mediterranean over the weekend. Some 97 migrants are missing in that incident.

Jugend Rettet spokeswoman Pauline Schmidt told AFP that a further 1,000 people remained to be rescued from inflatable dinghies and other craft, with the rescue ships reaching capacity.

According to the IOM, "Sub-Saharan migrants were being sold and bought by Libyans, with the support of Ghanaians and Nigerians who work for them", as reported by its Niger staff. The boat was due to arrive in the port city of Argostoli in the early evening.

Chris Catrambone, one of the founders of Moas, said it had requested "urgent assistance" on Saturday morning. "We agree. Where are Frontex boats in a day like this?" "We are just lucky we got out of Libya alive".

  • Leroy Wright