7,100 More Migrants Rescued in Mediterranean Sea in Past Two Days

© AFP/File Gabriel Bouys

With a reprise of warm weather, record numbers of migrants have attempted crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa into Italy this week, with more than 7,000 migrants rescued and taken to southern Italy between Thursday and Friday.

The latest arrivals bring the total number of migrants crossing the sea into Italy during 2016 to more than 63,000, according to Italy’s interior ministry.

On Thursday, the Italian Coast Guard carried out more than 40 rescue missions with the assistance of Frontex, Europe’s external border management team, and other groups such as Doctors without Borders. The sea operations resulted in some 5,000 mostly African migrants being saved.

Aboard rafts, barges, and small boats, the migrants were attempting to make the perilous crossing of the Strait of Sicily from Libya and other North African countries to Sicily.

Friday saw more than 2,000 migrants added to the number of those rescued this week, bringing the two-day total to 7,100 people.

The Malta-based humanitarian group Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) proposed that the spike in numbers was probably a reaction to weather letup, after a week of unfavorable weather conditions.

Since March, an agreement between Turkey and the EU to curb migrant crossings to the Greek islands has radically reduced arrivals by 98 percent during the first five months of the year from the same period of 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Italy, on the other hand, has seen a steady river of migrant reaching its shores, and the IOM has documented the deaths of 2,440 attempting the dangerous central Mediterranean route into Europe.

Italy has taken over from Greece as the front line of Europe’s worst immigration crisis since before World War II, which is now in its third year.

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