Thousands of refugees rescued off Libyan coast

Italian authorities say series of rescue operations pull to safety over 4,600 people in three days.

    Thousands of refugees rescued off Libyan coast
    Several Italian coastguard vessels, along with the German naval support ship Berlin, took part in the rescues [File: Giuseppe Lami/EPA]

    More than 4,600 people travelling across the Mediterranean in unseaworthy boats have been rescued off the Libyan coast, the Italian coastguard has said.

    Sunday's announcement came after the United Nations recorded the number of people crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe drop by more than a third last month due to bad weather.

    The 4,600-plus people who attempted the crossing between Thursday and Saturday were encouraged by the calmer waters to set off for the nearest Italian coast.

    At least 1,123 of them were pulled to safety from two boats and seven inflatable dinghies on Saturday alone, as the coastguard operations centre in Italy's capital Rome coordinated nine rescues.

    Several Italian coastguard vessels, along with the German naval support ship Berlin - part of Operation Sophia, a military European Union mission to stop people traffickers - took part in the rescues.

    In late November, the International Organization for Migration estimated that nearly 860,000 asylum seekers have landed in Europe so far this year, with more than 3,500 dying while crossing the Mediterranean in search of safety.

    SOURCE: AFP


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