Italy rescues 1,900 migrants off Libya as arrivals surge

About 1,900 migrants crossing into Italy from North Africa have been picked up in the Mediterranean on Friday, raising to around 12,000 the total number of rescues since the start of the week, a spokesman for the Italian coastguard told dpa.

The figure compares with just under 1,641 arrivals on Italian shores in the whole of last week, according to figures compiled by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

On Friday, the coastguard coordinated 17 rescue missions, one of which was still ongoing, the spokesman said. The operations drew on help from several tug boats and a passing merchant ship, as well as non-governmental organizations' vessels and Italian navy units, he said.

Most of the rescues took place about 55 kilometres north of the Libyan city of Zuwarah, he added.

A migrant boat sank in that area on Thursday, prompting the rescue of 96 people, and officers from Eunavfor Med - the European Union naval mission which first rushed to the scene - said its units had spotted about 20 bodies at sea.

However, on Friday the Italian coastguard could not confirm that any of the bodies had been recovered.

The number of arrivals to Italy is expected to surge in the coming months as warmer weather facilitates more departures from Libya. But compared to 2015 figures, the number of migrant landings is broadly stable.

Last update: Fri, 27/05/2016 - 18:32

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