In a series of rescue operations, the Italian coast guard, flanked by vessels from other European organisations, rescued more than 2,000 migrants along the coast of Libya Thursday, and subsequently took them to southern Italian port cities to be registered as asylum seekers.
During the course of the rescue operations the coast guard also recovered the corpses of two migrants who had died attempting to make the perilous crossing of the Strait of Sicily, which separates North Africa from Italy.
Altogether 15 operations were carried out, involving Italian naval and coast guard vessels as well as ships from England and Germany, the Frontex border agency and another from Doctors Without Borders.
“The coastguard has coordinated 15 rescue operations, some 2,000 migrants are safe and sound,” the coast guard announced.
This latest batch of migrants joins the more than 800 who had been rescued off Libya on Wednesday, as more and more take advantage of temperate weather to attempt the journey.
According to the United Nations’ refugee agency, more than 48,000 migrants have reached Italian shores since the beginning of 2015, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa. The migrants arriving in Italy in the past days come mainly from Cameroon, Togo, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire.
The route from North Africa across the Strait of Sicily is proving to be considerably more dangerous than the other Mediterranean routes, with 2,119 of the deaths reported thus far in 2016 resulting among people making that journey.
Of the more than 48,000 migrants travelling to Italy this year, one in 23 has died.
Last week at least 880 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome