Italy rescues 4,000 migrants in 48 hours in escalating crisis

ROME Wed Apr 9, 2014 4:56am EDT

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ROME (Reuters) - Italy has rescued 4,000 migrants from boats trying to reach European shores in the past 48 hours in a deepening immigration crisis, the interior minister said on Wednesday.

Better sea conditions and turmoil in Libya, grappling with chaos and rampant militias three years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, have increased the numbers risking the perilous sea journey from North Africa to try to reach Europe.

"The emergency is getting worse and there is no halt to the boats arriving," Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told state-owned RAI radio. "This issue is serious and Europe must take it in hand, immediately, because this is not a Mediterranean border but a European border."

Rome has repeatedly urged the European Union to take a greater role in policing the seas as two-thirds of migrants who reach Italy travel onwards to other countries in the region. The interior minister said 15,000 migrants had arrived in Italy by sea since the start of 2014.

Rescues over the past two days included one group of 1,049 migrants containing 91 women and three babies, who were spotted by a navy helicopter and a drone as their boats ran into difficulty. They were rescued by ships and brought to ports on the island of Sicily.

Alfano said that on Wednesday two commercial vessels alerted by Italian forces were aiding 661 people in distress and that at least one migrant on the boats had died during the journey.

"As we speak, there are people smugglers, merchants of death, earning and profiting from human beings, from the death of other men, and even from our timely sea rescues because it makes their trips shorter, therefore more profitable and less risky," he said.

Italy is a mayor gateway into Europe for migrants who cross the Mediterranean, often in overcrowded and flimsy vessels.

Two shipwrecks last October, one in which 366 Eritreans drowned and another in which 200 mostly Syrians died, prompted the Italian government to put its navy on permanent patrol in the waters between Sicily and North Africa.

(Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Alison Williams)

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Comments (3)
acmavm wrote:
Libya? They’re trying to escape from Libya? Surely you MUST be mistaken. Why the U.S. and our NATO friends bombed Libya back to the Stone Age back 3 years ago last month all in the name of FREEDOM and saving them from an evil dictator, just like we did in Iraq. We even gave the operations names. OpĂ©ration Harmattan for France, Operation Ellamy for the United Kingdom, Canada was Operation Mobile, and Operation Odyssey Dawn was the name the United States used while bombing the crap out of the place (over 26,000 times).

Italy needs some help from the countries that caused this humanitarian fiasco. Unfortunately the U.S. and its NATO allies are busy with the overthrow of another area of the planet so they really don’t have the time or the cash necessary to try to provide humanitarian aid to these people that they’ve already ‘liberated’.

Apr 09, 2014 8:34am EDT  --  Report as abuse
VicVejo wrote:
Libya? The same Libya that Obama bombed without congressional approval? The same Libya where Benghazi occurred and Obama lied and said it was a YouTube video? So Russia sending troops to Crimea is wrong but Obama invading Libya is right? And now Europe has to deal with the flood of illegal immigrants because of Obama’s actions? Hmmm. Maybe Europe will start to realize Obama doesn’t care. Europe has 15,000 illegals? America have 15 million illegals. And Obama ignores deportation laws. Wants to make them all citizens and take American jobs. Why? Because they will vote Democrat. Obama swore and oath to uphold the constitution, which he not only ignores, but spits in the face of.

Apr 09, 2014 11:03am EDT  --  Report as abuse
MikeHockey wrote:
at acmavm, so the US is responsible for all the chaos in your view? like really? please dude stop speaking out of your rectum & use your brain. Maybe then people will be enlightened by your posts. For once.

Apr 09, 2014 6:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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