26 migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya by an Italian merchant ship on Friday night, the Coast Guard said. Many are feared missing.
The Coast Guard said it tracked a satellite phone signal which it had received to a location about seven miles off the Libyan coast. An Italian merchant vessel in the area was then diverted and rescued the 26 from a rubber boat that had taken on water.
This comes in the wake of a serious migrant crisis in Europe.
According to EU’s law enforcement body Europol, human smugglers made a record profit last year of between $3 billion and $6 billion by exploiting the misery of refugees.
Human smuggling is now among top criminal enterprises in Europe. A recent Europol research also revealed that 90 per cent of asylum-seekers, refugees and economic migrants had paid a criminal gang to reach Europe.
With the closing of land routes in the Balkans and a recent deal under which Greece sends migrants back to Turkey, Italian officials expect more to try to make the longer and much more dangerous crossing from Libya.