AFM involved in rescue operation of some 270 asylum seekers

AFM assisting in rescue operation as thousands of people are ‘racing against the clock’ to make the perilous crossing from Libya • over 10,000 asylum seekers rescued since Sunday

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

An Armed Forces of Malta sea vessel participated in a rescue operation involving some 270 people south of Malta but an army spokesperson said that the asylum seekers are expected to be taken to Italy.

MaltaToday understands that Italy demanded Malta’s help as thousands of asylum seekers are attempting to reach Europe from Libya.

Over the past few days thousands of asylum seekers have been rescued by Italian and Frontex vessels with some 10,000 refugees rescued in a 36-hour period while attempting to make the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean, making it one of the largest ever rescue operations in the sea.

Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesperson for the International Organisation for Migration in Italy, said that 6,900 migrants and refugees had been rescued as of Tuesday morning. These were saved from 44 rubber dinghies, eight small wooden boars and two large vessels. One of the large boats was carrying around 700 people.

On Tuesday night, the coast guard said an additional 3,000 people had been rescued during the day.

The Italian coast guard said that the rescued migrants are being taken to ports in Calabria and Sicily.

He added that calmer waters may have prompted such a high number of migrants to attempt the crossing simultaneously, after days in which they wated in Libya because of choppy seas.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also said that 3,000 men, women and children were rescued from the waters north of Libya yesterday.

“That's almost 10,000 people in just 36 hours,” MSF said in a tweet.

Thousands of asylum seekers are "racing against the clock" to make the perilous crossing from Libya to Europe before summer ends, with authorities in the conflict-torn country at a loss to stem the flow

Abdel Hamid al-Souei of Libya's Red Crescent said improved weather triggered this week's mass outflow that has seen more than 10,000 migrants rescued since Sunday from floundering boats.

The migrants are "racing against the clock because they fear the start of autumn when conditions will not be so good" out at sea, he said.

Most of the migrants from the Horn of Africa and the west of the continent set out from the Libyan town of Sabratha, just 300 kilometres across the Mediterranean from the Italian island of Lampedusa.

As of Monday, around 12,000 migrants and refugees had reached Italy in August, slightly more than half the number of arrivals in August 2015. Since the beginning of 2016, around 116,000 migrants reached Italy, slightly less than in the same period last year.

However, the closure of European borders means that refugees have been left bottled up inside Italy, which is struggling to find places to host them. Italian reception centres now shelter 145,000 migrants and refugees, an increase of over 50% since the beginning of the year.