The Open Arms private rescue operation has saved the lives of 38 migrants in distress in the central Mediterranean. Nearer to Spain, at least two migrants drowned at the weekend.
A group of 38 migrants rescued at the weekend included 14 children, Open Arms said in a statement. The NGO vessel had only departed for its 82nd mission on Thursday. Its crew had last rescued 146 refugees in mid-February, bringing them to Sicily, where the boat remained docked until last week.
Earlier in the year, the Open Arms vessel had to remain docked in Sicily after rescuing 265 migrants for mandatory quarantine of the crew, as was ordered by the Sicily maritime health department.
Central Mediterranean route still popular
Boats and dinghies carrying migrants continue to set off from Libya, which has become the main port of departure for migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East in recent years. The journey from the war-torn nation is extremely dangerous, with hundreds of people drowning each year.
According to the UN, more than 230 migrants have already lost their lives at sea while attempting to cross the central Mediterranean this year.
Boat tragedy in Spain
Also at the weekend at least two migrants died trying to reach the Spanish mainland. Several others remain missing, as coast guard helicopters continue the search for survivors.
"There are two deceased, whose bodies have been found, three survivors and nine missing people," authorities in Murcia, Spain, said. The AFP news agency said that their boat had capsized near the town of Mazarron in the early hours of Sunday.
Last year, at least 330 people died on the western Mediterranean route trying to reach Spain, according the UN migration agency, IOM. This year, that number is so far at 58.
Since the beginning of the year, nearly 4,400 migrants and refugees have reached Spanish soil — more than half of whom, however, landed on the Canary Islands crossing the Atlantic from Africa, with many departing from Morocco or Western Sahara.
with dpa, AFP