Italy says 3,200 boat migrants rescued in one day, one body recovered

Italy says 3,200 boat migrants rescued in one day, one body recovered

ROME – Reuters
Italy says 3,200 boat migrants rescued in one day, one body recovered

Migrants sit in their boat during a rescue operation by Italian navy ship Borsini (unseen) off the coast of Sicily, Italy, in this handout picture courtesy of the Italian Marina Militare released July 19, 2016. REUTERS photo

Some 3,200 migrants were plucked from overcrowded boats off the coast of Libya on July 19 and one dead body was recovered, the Italian coast guard said, as people smugglers operating in Libya took advantage of calm seas and warm weather. 

A coast guard spokesman said the smugglers had sent at least 26 boats toward Italy, the latest in a tide of migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. 

Three Italian navy ships took part in rescues, picking up more than 1,000 of those brought to safety. British and Spanish ships operating within the European Union’s anti-people-smuggling mission also conducted rescues. 

The Doctors Without Borders charity and migrant rescue groups MOAS and Sea Watch also participated. An Irish navy ship and a private tug boat completed the cast of rescuers. 

A deal struck between the EU and Turkey and border closures have helped to stem the flow of migrants from the Middle East and Asia coming through Turkey and Greece. But Italy has received about the same number of migrants setting off from North Africa this year as during the same period of 2015. 

As of July 18, 79,861 migrants had arrived in Italy by sea, compared with 83,119 during the same period of last year, while the number of migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey was down 95 percent. 

Almost 3,000 boat migrants have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.  

Fabrice Leggeri, head of Frontex, the agency in charge of protecting the EU’s external borders, said July 12 that the “new front line” was now Italy, where about 750 people, mostly from sub-Saharan and Western Africa, arrived each day compared with about 50 in Greece.