Italy rescues over 6,000 migrants from Mediterranean

At least 6,771 people rescued from Mediterranean Sea off Libyan coast over the past 48 hours, reach Italian ports.

Correction4 May 2015
An earlier version of this story said that nearly 5,800 migrants arrived at the port of Pozallo. This was incorrect. About 800 migrants arrived at Pozallo. The rest arrived at a number of other Italian ports.

Italian rescue ships have brought thousands of migrants to the country’s southern ports as crowded shelters in Sicily and on the mainland struggled to find room for them.

In a three-day period ending Sunday, 6,771 survivors were rescued in the seas north of Libya from overcrowded rubber dinghies and unseaworthy fishing boats sent out by smuggling rings, the Libyan Coast Guard said on Monday.

Ten bodies were found on Sunday on boats or in the sea.

Calm seas and mild temperatures fueled the spike in human trafficking – just like it did last month when nearly 6,000 migrants were rescued during a few days of good weather.

Al Jazeera’s Stephanie Dekker, reporting from the port of Pozzallo, on the island of Sicily, said that while the boats had docked, most of the occupants had yet to disembark. 

“We’re being told that there is a rigorous one-by-one medical check-up going on to ensure that people do not carry transmittable diseases,” she said.

Italy has not yet released the total number of migrant arrivals in April, but the relentless stream of migrants this year is on track to surpass the 170,000 rescued at sea by Italy in 2014.

The surge of arrivals set Italian port mayors and charity organisations scrambling to find beds for the migrants.


Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said promises made at last month’s EU summit had to be honoured.

“The EU summit finally confirmed the European character of the migrant issue in the Mediterranean but now we need meaningful steps,” Gentiloni told the European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, in a telephone conversation, the foreign ministry said.

“A European emergency cannot continue to have only Italian responses.”


Interior Minister Angelino Alfano visited the Italian island of Sicily on Monday, conferring with local authorities wrestling with how to shelter the growing number of migrants.

Some politicians based in northern Italy, meanwhile, vowed that their regions wouldn’t take in any of the Mediterranean Sea migrants.

The Milan-based governor of Lombardy, meanwhile, vowed not to take in any more migrants.

“If there is any funding available, it should be spent on our citizens and not for clandestine migrants,” Governor Roberto Maroni was quoted by the Italian news agency ANSA as saying.

Austria’s Chancellor has called for an EU-wide quota to accommodate people reaching Europe’s southern shores.

An estimated 800 migrants drowned last month when their boat capsized off Libya with hundreds of them locked in the hold by smugglers. After that, the European Union held an emergency summit and agreed to contribute more boats and patrol aircraft to Mediterranean rescue efforts.

Meanwhile, authorities in Egypt said that three people died when a migrant boat attempting to reach Greece sank off its coast. They said 31 people were rescued.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies