1,164 migrants rescued in Med Sea in one day
ROMERescuers plucked 1,164 people from rubber and wooden boats in the Mediterranean under heavy thunderstorms on Dec. 11 and recovered six dead bodies during the operations, relief services said.
The rescue operation came on the same day as the European Union signed a deal with Mali aimed at enabling the return of migrants who have reached Europe’s shores, and whose asylum requests have been refused.
Italian Coast Guard and naval ships, a vessel from the EU’s anti-smuggling mission and private aid groups rescued the people from seven boats in the Mediterranean, Reuters reported.
The Italian Coast Guard gave no details about the six dead it found.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF), one of the humanitarian groups that took part in the Dec. 11 rescues, wrote about the stormy weather on Twitter: “It bucketed down during today’s rescues. Winter on the Mediterranean is next-level grim.”
Most of the 4,715 deaths in the Mediterranean counted by the International Organization for Migration so far this year were reportedly en route to Italy from Libya, where traffickers have taken advantage of lawlessness to set up profitable businesses.
One migrant told the crew of the Aquarius, a rescue ship run by the humanitarian group SOS Méditerranée, that he wanted to go to Tripoli airport to take a flight home to Bangladesh but trying to reach the Libyan capital “was much more dangerous than taking this wooden boat and trying to cross to Europe.”
But amid the distress, a Nigerian woman rescued on Dec. 10 evening gave birth on Dec. 11 to a baby boy on the ship, which was “good news that cheered up the whole crew,” the aid group said on its website.
Commenting on the EU-Mali migrant deal, the Dutch Foreign Ministry, which signed the agreement on the EU’s behalf, said, “It is the first time the EU establishes such a precise mechanism with an African country with regards to returning failed asylum seekers.”
The accord seeks to fight “the root causes of illegal migration” and to “enable the return from Europe of Malian migrants,” the statement said, AFP reported.
The agreement came after a summit in the Maltese capital Valletta in November 2015, when EU leaders agreed with their African counterparts to set up a 1.8 billion-euro ($1.9 billion) fund to help address the root causes of migration.
In return, African countries would step up border controls and accept the repatriation of those who make it to Europe but are judged to have no right to remain.
The EU-Mali deal lays the foundations for schemes to help young people find work, and seeks to strengthen the country’s security forces.
In addition, Mali and neighboring states are expected to step up the fight against people-smugglers while improving their border security.
A total of nine projects, with a budget of 145.1 million euros, were adopted.
Under the deal, “Malian civil servants will travel to EU member states to help determine the identity of migrants, in order to accelerate their return,” the statement said.
The number of migrants from African nations – including Mali, Nigeria and The Gambia – who risk their lives at sea in a desperate bid to reach Europe has increased considerably in recent years, official figures show.
The EU-Mali deal, which was set to be presented in Brussels on Dec. 12, is “necessary,” according to Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, whose country will hold the EU’s rotating presidency from the New Year.
“Young Malians have so much to give to their country. We must help stop Malians traveling to North Africa or Europe from losing their lives or falling into the hands of people smugglers,” he added.