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10 migrants die, 4,500 rescued in ongoing mission, says Italy

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Some rescued migrants

Some rescued migrants

ABOUT 4,500 migrants were plucked from boats off the coast of Libya over the weekend and 10 bodies were recovered, Italy’s coast guard and navy said, in what looked to be the biggest rescue mission of its kind so far this year.

Two weeks after nearly 900 boat people drowned in the worst Mediterranean shipwreck in living memory, the flow of people from Africa desperate to reach a better life in Europe has accelerated, as people smugglers take advantage of calmer seas.

Seven bodies were found on two large rubber boats packed with migrants and rescuers plucked from the sea the corpses of three others who had jumped into the water when they saw a merchant ship approaching, the coast guard said.

Separately, authorities in Egypt said that three died when a migrant boat attempting to reach Greece sank off its coast. Thirty-one people were rescued.

Some 10 Italian vessels, four private boats and a French ship acting on behalf of the European border control agency took part in the rescue off Libya, coordinated by Italy, the country that receives the biggest number of Mediterranean migrants.

The private Migrant Offshore Aid Station, which runs one rescue ship in partnership with Doctors Without Borders, said on Twitter it had saved 369 migrants, mainly from Eritrea, from a single overcrowded wooden boat.

All of those rescued were being brought to Italian shores, some already arriving at Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost island, and others at Trapani, Sicily. More were to be brought ashore overnight and today.

Shocked by last month’s record disaster, European Union leaders agreed to triple funding for the EU sea patrol mission Triton, but there is still disagreement on what to do with the people fleeing conflict and poverty in various parts of Africa and the Middle East.

Austrian Chancellor, Werner Faymann, said in a newspaper interview yesterday that the EU should set up a quota system whereby member-countries agree to take in more refugees in order to relieve some of the pressure on Italy, Greece and Malta.

But Austria’s proposal is likely to face tough opposition from some member-states, including Britain and Hungary.


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