By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli, 2 May 2015:
As the EU beefs up its Operation Triton mission, France carried out its first maritime . . .[restrict]rescue this morning when a patrol vessel picked up 217 migrants in three inflatables off the Libyan coast and arrested two suspected people smugglers.
The French were responding to an alert from Triton’s Rome-based maritime rescue co-ordination centre. Some of the migrants needed medical care. The French captain of the D’Estienne D’Orves-class naval vessel F796 was reported by Reuters as saying that the smugglers’ three boats had been “neutralised”. The news agency also said that those rescued had been handed over to the Italian authorities. Under the EU’s Dublin Treaty, illegal immigrants become the responsibility of the first country with which they come into contact.
On Friday, in a single incident, the Italian coastguards rescued 200 migrants drifting in rubber dinghies south of Sicily. Unconfirmed reports have it that in the last 48 hours, some 1,400 more asylum seekers have been picked up. No dead have been found at sea during this time.
However, two migrants died in the desert near Al-Jaghbub, near the Egyptian border. Smugglers had abandoned their human cargo without food and water after their two-lorry convoy carrying 44 migrants was challenged on Tuesday by members of the Petroleum Defence Force.
One truck and its 22 occupants was detained immediately but the other fled. The smugglers later dumped their passengers in the desert. A four-day search by military and civilian vehicles discovered the other migrants, 150 kilometres southwest of Al-Jaghbub. Two of them had died.
There are probably as many people perishing in the desert as at sea. The Libya Herald has learnt of one group of 130 sub-Saharan Africans, which came in from Niger last year, of whom only three made it alive to Sebha. They were abandoned in the desert by the people-traffickers without water and food. [/restrict]