By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 11 September 2016:
The Italian Coast Guard reported that about 2,300 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast on Friday.
There were 18 rescue operations from 36 rubber boats and fishing vessels carried out by Spanish and Irish ships as well as a number of NGOs, the Italian Coast Guard reported.
Ireland’s LÉ James Joyce, which itself took on board 423 migrant in an operation 40 miles northwest of Tripoli, helped coordinate some of the rescues.
The Maltese-based NGO MOAS reported that its vessels Phoenix and Responder, together with the Italian Red Cross, rescued and assisted around 1,000 people.
According to the IOM’s latest figures published Friday, 291,175 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2016 up to 7 September. In 2016 almost all migrant and refugee landings in the Mediterranean have been to Greece and Italy.
Although the total number of arrivals so far this year (291,175) are almost 60,000 less than the same period last year (350,504 up to 30 August), mainly due to the sharp drop in arrivals to Greece since earlier in the year, the number of deaths is higher compared to last year, the IOM says.
Up to 7 September, the estimated 3,198 Mediterranean deaths are over 630 more than the 2,656 recorded between 1 January and 31 August 2015. This indicates that while total arrivals are now lower than they were at this time last year, the number of reported deaths is significantly higher, says the report.
Since IOM’s last Mediterranean arrivals update on Tuesday 6 August, about 2,889 migrants have been rescued in the Channel of Sicily. According to official figures from the Italian Ministry of Interior, 124,244 migrants and refugees have arrived by sea to Italy this year. This is an increase of almost 2 percent compared to the same period last year, when arrivals were 121,973.
The IOM report says that in Greece, on 5 and 6 September 241 arrivals by sea to Lesvos, Samos, Chios and Kalymnos were registered. This again confirms the drastic decrease in the number of arrivals in Greece since March this year.
Meanwhile, the EU’s anti-illegal migration Naval mission in the Mediterranean, Operation Sophia, has reported that it has ‘‘neutralized’’ 290 smugglers’ boats in 2016, AFP reports.
Sophia says that it had destroyed 290 vessels on the High Sea since October 2015. It also said that 87 smugglers were apprehended during these boat seizers who were transferred to the Italian authorities.
The EU’s anti-illegal migration operation in the Mediterranean, Operation Sophia, currently comprises of five vessels and three helicopters.