1,400 migrants rescued off Libyan coast

1,400 migrants rescued off Libyan coast

Around 1,400 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean have been rescued off the coast of Libya, the Italian coastguard has said.

2 min read
20 October, 2016
At least 3,654 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year [Getty]

Some 1,400 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean were rescued on Thursday off the coast of Libya, according to the Italian coastguard, which coordinated the operations conducted mainly by aid ships.

Attempts at the dangerous crossing are continuing despite worsening weather as winter approaches, with more than 2,400 migrants rescued off Libya in total since Sunday.

The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres tweeted that it had rescued 802 people on six rubber dinghies and one small wooden boat, and MOAS, a Maltese NGO, said it had rescued 432 migrants on three dinghies.

Italian coastguards and the crew of an EU counter-trafficking vessel rescued the remaining migrants.

On Wednesday, rescuers found five bodies on a dinghy carrying around 200 people, many of them unaccompanied minors.

The Italian interior ministry said on Tuesday that more than 145,000 migrants had landed in Italy so far this year, a figure similar to that of the previous two years. According to the UN, at least 3,654 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year.

After months of painstaking autopsies, authorities on Tuesday put the death toll in the April 2015 migrant shipwreck at between 750-800 people, confirming survivors' initial estimates.

The head of Italy's office of missing people, Vittorio Piscitelli, told a news conference that a more precise number can be known only after further examination of the remains, "to substitute the numbers with names."

With only 28 survivors, the April 18, 2015, shipwreck off the coast of Libya remains the deadliest known migrant tragedy. The Italian government, reacting to global outrage, recovered the wreck from the seabed floor earlier this year. It has been working to identify the dead to allow remains to be returned to loved ones where possible.

The work on the identification is expected to take years, hampered by political and economic conditions that caused many migrants to flee home and by the poor condition of the remains.

Two-thirds of the dead were men between the ages of 20 and 30 and one-third were adolescents ages 15-17. There was one child, a 7-year-old boy. Most were from sub-Saharan African nations.

Agencies contributed to this report.