54 dead, some 10,000 migrants rescued off Libya coast in 4 days


More than 3,400 migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya on Friday, bringing to about 10,000 the total number rescued over four days, according to Libyan and Italian officials.

At least 10 bodies were also found by the Italian coastguard, officials said. No vessels were reported in distress on Saturday.

On Friday, more than 1,200 migrants were rescued by Libyan ships and taken to Tripoli or Zawiya, about 50 kilometres (31 miles) west, while the Italian coastguard and commercial boats rescued 2,200 others and took them to Italy.

Migrants were still disembarking in southern Italy on Saturday.

Another 6,400 were picked up between Tuesday and Thursday, but at least 35 people drowned on Wednesday when a powerful wave struck their vessel, pitching them into the sea as a rescue ship was distributing life jackets.

The unloading of passengers in Sicily was halted all week due to the G7 summit in the eastern hilltop town of Taormina, which lengthened rescue ships' journey by 24 hours and delayed their return to the seas.

In response, they called on commercial boats to help out.

More than 50,000 migrants have reached the Italian coast since the start of the year, not counting those rescued in recent days, while more than 1,400 have drowned or are missing, according to UN figures.

Of the 181,000 migrants who entered Italy last year, some 90 percent arrived via Libya.

The North African country has long been a stepping stone for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.


Libya has urged Europe, and particularly Italy, to supply it with the equipment it needs to monitor its southern borders, through which migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan African, enter the country.

AFP

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