Migrant crisis: Thousands rescued in Mediterranean

More than 3,400 people taken ashore by European patrols on Saturday alone

A video image released by the Italian coast guard of a rescue operation of 397 migrants on Saturday. Photograph: AFP/Guardia Costiera

A video image released by the Italian coast guard of a rescue operation of 397 migrants on Saturday. Photograph: AFP/Guardia Costiera

 

Italy’s coast guard summoning Italian and French naval boats, merchant ships and even private yachts to assist in the operations.

Most of the boat people were rescued off the Libyan coast and taken to ports in Sicily and Calabria.

With the Mediterranean calm and with the weather becoming ever warmer – 35 degrees is the forecast temperature for Sicily this week – the rise in numbers attempting the crossing to Europe comes as no surprise.

On Saturday alone, more than 3,400 migrants were rescued from 17 boats and 10 bodies were recovered.

While the Mediterranean continues to be patrolled by the EU’s Triton mission, the co-ordination of last weekend’s rescue operations rested largely with the Italian coast guard, taking migrants to the ports of Catania, Palermo, Pozzallo and Trapani in Sicily as well as to Reggio Calabria and Crotone in Calabria and to the island of Lampedusa.

Origin of migrants

This weekend’s increase in arrivals comes just two weeks after at least 750 people, most of them locked into a ship’s hold, were drowned 70km off the Libyan coast.

That tragedy prompted EU leaders to hold an emergency summit 10 days ago at which they agreed to triple the funding for Triton, bringing its budget to almost €9 million per month.

However, there has been dissent from Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban. In a letter that will shortly be sent to his country’s citizens, he writes: “As Brussels has failed to address immigration appropriately, Hungary must follow its own path . . . We shall not allow economic migrants to jeopardise the jobs and livelihoods of Hungarians.”

Hungarian poll