Thousands rescued from stricken boats off Libya's coast

Nearly 3,000 saved by European authorities as flow of migrants across Mediterranean continues unabated.

    Thousands rescued from stricken boats off Libya's coast
    The Italian coastguard said the rescues had all been carried out in an area around 55km from the coast of Libya [AP]

    Around 2,700 migrants have been rescued from 13 boats near the coast of Libya, Italy's coastguard said.

    A German navy vessel and a search and rescue ship deployed by medical charity Doctors Without Borders participated in the rescues on Wednesday, along with the Italian navy and coastguard.

    A spokeswoman for the Italian coastguard said the rescues had all been carried out in an area around 55km from the coast of Libya.

    Italy's border force battles to rescue migrants at sea

    An estimated 150,000 migrants have reached Europe by sea so far in 2015, most of them in Greece and Italy, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said last week.

    More than 1,900 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean, twice the toll during the same period last year, said IOM spokesman Joel Millman.

    The United Nations refugee agency said on Friday that Greece urgently needed help to cope with 1,000 migrants arriving each day.

    The vast majority of the migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East depart from Libya, where human traffickers have taken advantage of a breakdown in order to build up a lucrative business.

    EU foreign ministers last month approved the launch of a military operation against people smugglers in the Mediterranean, with ships and aircraft conducting intelligence gathering missions.

    The European Commission also unveiled a voluntary plan last month for its member states to deal with the influx of tens of thousands of migrants travelling to Europe via the Mediterranean.

    RELATED: Migrants crossing Mediterranean into Europe hit 150,000

    The plan, announced after lengthy talks in Brussels, aims to speed up the relocation of 40,000 migrants from Italy and Greece over two years.

    Another 20,000 people now living outside of the EU and found in need of protection will also be resettled under the plan, which was immediately criticised by Italy for not imposing mandatory quotas on nations.

    The distribution of the migrants will be agreed upon by the end of July. 

    Italy and Greece are the first destination for thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in countries including Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Sudan.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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