Upturn in refugees crossing Mediterranean after EU Aegean clampdown

Upturn in refugees crossing Mediterranean after EU Aegean clampdown
The Italian navy rescued 4,000 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea over the past two days, leading to fears that more refugees are making the more perilous route to Europe.
2 min read
12 April, 2016
The Italian navy has been led rescue operations in the Mediterranean [AFP]
Some 4,000 refugees have been rescued by the Italian navy in the past two days, while numbers of migrants landing in Greece have dropped sharply.

It has added to fears that more refugees are attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Africa, widely considered to be the most perilous route to Europe for migrants.

It comes after the European Union and Turkey began to implement a controversial deal that involves transferring refugees from Greece back to Turkey.

Tighter controls have also been made to close the route via the Aegean Sea through the Balkans to Western Europe for migrants.

With tighter controls, and war still raging in Iraq, Syria and parts of Africa, many refugees will be looking for alternative routes to reach Europe.

On Tuesday, 2,154 migrants were brought to safety in the Strait of Sicily between Italy and North Africa, on top of the 1,850 rescued in the area on Monday, the coastguard said.

The bulk of the 25 rescue operations were carried out by the Italian navy, while the EU border agency’s Frontex and a Greek cargo ship also assisted, which helped ensure that all the passengers survived.

Libya has been the main departure point for refugees attempting to reach Europe from Africa.

A spokesman for the Libyan navy said that country's coastguard intercepted a further six inflatable boats carrying 649 migrants off Sabratha, near Libya's border with Tunisia, on Tuesday, while 115 migrants were rescued on Monday close to the capital Tripoli.

The arrivals represent a sharp increase on the average daily numbers landing in Italy since the start of the year.

According to the United Nations, 19,900 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Italy so far this year, compared with 153,000 landing in Greece.

The start of spring usually sees calmer seas, which has encouraged greater numbers of migrants to attempt the perilous waters to Italy, while others try to reach Malta.

There are also concerns that European clampdown on the crossing from Turkey to Greece will encourage more people to attempt the more dangerous Mediterranean passage from Libya to Italy.

Agencies contributed to this story.