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Migrant rescue surge as Mediteranean seas calm

Migrant rescue surge as Mediteranean seas calm

Italy

The Italian coast guard says migrant rescue operations are increasing, as calm seas returned to the Mediterranean, prompting a surge in departures from North Africa.

Rescue operations were continuing, an Italian coast guard spokesman said.

Ships manned by humanitarian organisations, the Italian navy and coast guard helped rescue about 5,000 migrants from about 40 different boats on Thursday (June 23) alone in one of their busiest days of the year.

The Topaz Responder, a ship run by the Malta-based humanitarian group Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), said some two dozen migrant boats were spotted in the sea about 20 nautical miles from the Libyan port city of Sabratha.

The ship picked up 382 sub-Saharan African migrants from three large rubber boats.

The Bourbon Argos, a ship run by humanitarian group Doctors without Borders, picked up 1,139 migrants from 10 boats, and two other humanitarian vessels picked up 156 more.

The Italian navy said it had rescued 515 from two dinghies, German humanitarian group Sea-Watch said it had 100 on board, and the Italian coast guard, which coordinates rescue operations, said it had deployed several boats.

An agreement between Turkey and the EU to stop migrant departures for the Greek islands has reduced boat arrivals by 98 percent during the first five months of the year from the same period of 2015, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

But arrivals in Italy continue at about the same rate as last year and the deadly central Mediterranean route has already claimed 2,438 lives, IOM said.

Reuters

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