Hundreds picked up on Libya-Italy route
ABOARD AQUARIUS RESCUE SHIP-Reuters
International charity ships and Libya’s coastguard and picked up several hundred migrants on March 10 as smugglers trying to take advantage of calm seas launched a flurry of boats towards Italy.
Libyan coastguard vessels intercepted two of the boats, the first an inflatable dinghy that had broken down with 125 people on board off Zawiya, just west of the capital, Tripoli, said Ayoub Qassem, a coastguard spokesman. The second boat was turned back off Garabulli and had 112 people on board.
One boat with more than 100 migrants on board made it as far as the Aquarius rescue ship about 21 miles from the coast to the west of Tripoli. The ship was preparing to transfer the migrants to Italy. Rescuers on board the Aquarius said the boat was on the verge of sinking when it reached them. More than half the migrants on it were Nigerians, with the rest from other sub-Saharan African countries.
“All but one of the five balloons holding the boat up was either completely deflated or deflating and there were still about 120 people inside the boat, so a very, very precarious condition,” said one of the rescuers, Max Avis. A Reuters reporter saw one of the Palestinians being thrown into the water by others after trying to convince them that they would be better off being saved by a nearby Libyan coastguard boat than drowning.