More than 2,000 refugees rescued off Libya’s coast

Italy’s coastguard confirms 10 bodies were also recovered in 16 rescue operations carried out on Saturday.

Irish Navy rescue migrants in the Mediterranean
As many as 4,220 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean so far this year [EPA]

Almost 2,200 refugees and migrants have been rescued off the Libyan coast while 10 bodies have also been recovered from a rubber dinghy, the Italian coastguard said.

Sixteen rescue operations were conducted on Saturday, almost twice as many as on Friday when 1,200 people were rescued.

An AFP news agency correspondent aboard the Topaz Responder, a search and rescue ship chartered by Maltese NGO MOAS and the Italian Red Cross, saw several hundred people, including children, being rescued.

People shrouded in foil survival blankets crowded onto the deck of the vessel following the rescue efforts in which at least one baby was saved during the early hours of Saturday.

The Red Cross tweeted that 707 people were on board the vessel.

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Doctors without borders (MSF) also confirmed a ship on Friday rescued 867 people, including 119 women and eight babies, four of whom were only a few months old.

Meanwhile, the Libyan Red Crescent said it recovered the bodies of six people at a beach west of Tripoli on Saturday, taking the number of drowned migrants and refugees found along the North African country’s coast to 40 since last Sunday.

Smugglers have exploited the chaos gripping Libya since the 2011 uprising that overthrew Muammar Gaddhafi to traffic refugees across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

As many as 4,220 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean so far this year, a higher number than the full-year totals for any other year on record, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

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More than 725 others have died in 2016 than at the same point last year, the IOM said.

Aid groups helping rescue efforts over the past weekend accused the European Union of being in denial over the unprecedented carnage unfolding at its southern doorstep.

“In the face of this new and shameful record, the European Union cannot continue to pretend nothing is happening and make itself an accomplice to this ever greater tragedy,” said Tommaso Fabbri, the Italy head of MSF.

“There is an urgent need for safe and legal ways for desperate people to reach safety in Europe without risking or losing their lives,” added Fabbri.

Pope Francis added to their voices on Saturday, calling the situation of the refugees “shameful” and “a bankrupcy of humanity”.

“What has the world come to, if when a bank goes bankrupt, scandalous sums of money immediately appear to save it, while when this human bankruptcy [the migration crisis] happens, not even a thousandth of those sums are ready to save our suffering brothers and sisters,” he said.

“The Mediterranean has become a graveyard, and not just the Mediterranean. There are many graveyards near walls, walls stained with the blood of innocents.”

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Source: News Agencies