10 dead, but almost 1,000 migrants rescued from Med

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Italian Carabiniere give instructions to migrants as they are transferred to another immigration center by a ferry on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, in this Feb. 20, 2015, file photo. REUTERS

In the latest tragedy in the Mediterranean, Italy’s Coast Guard said Wednesday that it had managed to save 121 migrants from an overturned vessel in the Strait of Sicily, but 10 corpses were also pulled out of the sea.

The Coast Guard said during the past 24 hours it rescued a total of 941 migrants in seven separate rescue operations, in an area of the Mediterranean about 50 miles north of the Libyan coast.

The migrants rescued are of Syrian, Palestinian, Tunisian, Libyan and Subsaharan origin. They were attempting the perilous crossing aboard two motorized dinghies and two larger vessels.

Among them were more than 30 children and 50 women, one of them pregnant and requiring immediate medical attention. Three merchant ships also took part in the rescue operations.

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, almost 218,000 migrants attempted to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean in 2014 — and 3,500 of them died in the process, making it the world’s most lethal sea crossing for migrants.

Italy has received the bulk of them; 170,000.

The desperate refugees, fleeing conflict or poverty, make the treacherous journey on rickety smuggler’s boats, and, in what appeared to be a new trend in recent months, on old cargo ships packed full of migrants and set on a collision course with Italy by smugglers who abandon ship.

The crossings have increased in recent years, with smugglers launching vessels even in dangerous dangerous weather conditions due to the demand.

Italy’s large search-and-rescue operation “Mare Nostrum” ended in autumn 2014, and has beenreplaced by the more limited, EU-funded “Triton”border-control program, which operates fewer, smaller vessels and is confined to the Italian coastline.

The number of migrants making the hazardous journey continues to increase.

According to the Italian Interior Ministry, 7,782 migrants have been rescued this year, compared to 5,506 for the same period last year — a 30 percent increase. The number of dead, too, seems destined to rise.

In just one week in February, 300 people died trying to reach Italian shores.

Related Video: Desperate Syrians embark on “ghost ships”

Filed by CBS Radio News correspondent Anna Matranga.

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