By Sami Zaptia.
London, 30 August 2016:
Nearly 7,000 migrants in 35 rescue operations were rescued 13 miles north of the Libyan coastal town of Sabratha late on Monday afternoon, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported day.
Another 1,119 were rescued in the Channel of Sicily since Friday, IOM Rome spokesperson Flavio Di Giacomo said. “Authorities reported that two people died. Reason of death still unknown.”, he had added
UNSMIL’s Martin Kobler tweeted: ‘‘I applaud the rescue operation saving thousands off the Libyan coast’’. But he went on to condemn the trafficking and urged the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) to make fighting human trafficking as one of its main goals. ‘‘Human trafficking is a crime and must stop. It is an important goal for the GNA’’.
The IOM reported that the Mediterranean rescue operations were carried out by the following: the Italian Navy (“Cigala Fulgosi”, “Libeccio”, “Fasan”, “Garibaldi”, “Sfinge”), the Italian Coast Guard: (“Fiorillo”, “CP302”, “Cp303”, “CP324”, “CP320”), the Irish Navy: (“James Joyce”), the British Navy: (“Enterprise”), the Norwegian Ship (“Siem Pilot”) and the MSF ship “Dignity 1”.
With these rescues IOM Rome estimated that the total number of migrants rescued in 2016 is now around 111,500 on the (Libyan) Central Mediterranean route.
Many of those rescued were sailing in a flotilla of 54 sea crafts, with an estimated 44 rubber dinghies, eight small wooden boats and two bigger wooden fishing boats. It is not known if there were any further casualties among the passengers, although photographs of the rescue did show survivors swimming in the sea, including some wearing life jackets, IOM reported.
Di Giacomo noted that while rescues have been robust during August, casualties on the Central Mediterranean route have been light this past month – just 40 through the current week compared with over 600 dead in both Augusts of the previous two years. He said that sea conditions – abnormally windy – may have kept some boats from leaving North Africa.
IOM Athens reported Monday that migrant and refugee arrivals in Greece in August were 2,808 up to 28 August – the largest monthly number since April.
The sudden surge of migrants crossing from Libya by sea is put to the changing conditions in Libya. Some speculate that it is becoming more difficult for people smugglers to operate openly in Libya. Others put this simply to the sea and weather conditions with the smugglers simply taking advantage of favourable conditions to send off their backlog of waiting migrants.
Today, MSF Sea told me that they too had noted the surge. However, they also felt that Monday’s surge ‘‘came after a period of rough weather when the rubber boats couldn’t launch’’.
Last week the IOM had reported that since the 2011 Libyan revolution, it had voluntarily repatriated a total of 11,000 migrants back to their countries of origin. The most recent Nigerian returnees had been repatriated by air charter flights from Tripoli’s Mitiga airport and had been held in Libyan detention camps.
In today’s latest update, the IOM now report that 272, 070 migrants had entered Europe by sea up to 28 August with 3,165 recorded deaths.