Italian and French authorities have rescued more than 1,400 migrants after smugglers’ boats ran into trouble in the Mediterranean Sea, near Libya.
Italian officials told Al Jazeera that the country’s coastguard and navy have taken most of the migrants to Italian ports on Saturday after about 13 search and rescue operations.Authorities have released video showing continuing operations to rescue migrants from dangerously overcrowded boats between Libya and Sicily.
Meanwhile, a French ship sent to boost EU migrants patrols in the Mediterranean rescued about 220 people off the Libyan coast and handed them over to Italian authorities, officials said.
The migrants, who were reportedly mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa, were brought to the Italian island of Lampedusa, where they will be accomodated temporarily.
The migrants had been on board three boats, the authorities said, adding that two suspected smugglers were caught and will be handed over to Italian police.
The French patrol boat “Commandant Birot” was sent on Tuesday to reinforce the EU’s Triton surveillance operation after a series of migrant tragedies in which nearly 5,000 have drowned since the start of the year.
Two weeks earlier, a fishing boat in which smugglers had crammed an estimated 800 people capsised in what is the largest known loss of life in a single boat accident involving migrants trying to reach Italian shores.
There were only 28 survivors. The tragedy prompted a humanitarian outcry and a European Union pledge to boost rescue efforts.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies