Italian coast guard and navy ships have rescued more than 6,500 people over the weekend as the surge of illegal immigrants crossing the Mediterranean continues. On Saturday, Italian coast guard officials report 3,790 survivors were taken from 17 separate boats in distress off the coast of Libya.
This makes for one of the largest 48-hour tallies of rescued refugees this year. An additional 2,861 were estimated to have been rescued on Sunday, officials said.
According to FRANCE 24, two weeks after nearly 900 boat people drowned in the worst Mediterranean shipwreck in living memory, the flow of people sailing to Europe has accelerated as people smugglers take advantage of calmer spring seas.
Some 10 Italian vessels, four private boats and a French ship acting on behalf of the European border control agency took part in the operation. Italy, which receives the largest number of Mediterranean migrants, led the operation.
A number of those rescued have already been brought to Italy’s southernmost island Lampedusa and Trapani, Sicily. More asylum seekers are expected to land today.
Separately, authorities in Egypt said 31 people were rescued and three found dead when a boat attempting to reach Greece sank off its coast.
Ukip migration spokesman Steven Woolfe has accused the EU of exploiting the situation as it raises pressure on the UK to accept more of the refugees.
He said: “It is to Britain’s credit that we were the first nation to offer and place real maritime support into the Mediterranean to help Italy.
“What seems to be happening is cynicism at its most repellent. Our humanitarian efforts are being held up by the wish of our Continental friends for Britain to be a full part of the EU asylum system. It looks as if the migrants lives are being held hostage to a dream of greater European integration. Shame on them.”