Migrant wait to be assisted by crew members of Open Arms in waters off Lampedusa on Thursday, July 29, 2021 | Photo: AP Photo/Santi Palacios/Picture-alliance
Migrant wait to be assisted by crew members of Open Arms in waters off Lampedusa on Thursday, July 29, 2021 | Photo: AP Photo/Santi Palacios/Picture-alliance

Two NGO vessels have saved some 250 migrants from distress in the Mediterranean Sea over two days. The number of arrivals to Italy via the central Mediterranean, at present one of the most dangerous migration paths in the world, continues to rise.

The rescues took place on Thursday and Friday in the central Mediterranean Sea. First, the Spanish private aid organization Open Arms on Thursday (July 29) tweeted that the crew of its 30-meter long sailing yacht Astral had rescued more than 170 people in at least five operations off the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The migrants "were adrift onboard six flimsy boats" and had set off from Tunisia, Open Arms said on Twitter.

Citing media reports, news agency dpa reported that "numerous migrants arrived in boats on the island of Lampedusa on Thursday." According to ANSA news agency, more than 1,000 people were seeking protection on the small Mediterranean island.

Two rescues by Sea-Watch 3

The crew of the Sea-Watch 3 vessel conducted its first rescue Thursday night when it took on board just over 30 people, including three small children and several minors. "Several people were in the water and rescued by our crew. More were put back into their boat from aboard the Libyan vessel and left behind," the Berlin-based maritime rescue group tweeted afterwards.

During the second rescue by Sea-Watch, which took place "in the early morning", the crew picked up more than 60 people. "Many people are injured, some suffer from severe fuel burns," Sea-Watch wrote on Twitter.

Migrants often attempt the dangerous journey from Libya or Tunisia across the Mediterranean in overcrowded and flimsy boats in the hope of reaching Malta or Italy.

Uptick in arrivals, deaths, returns

Thousands of migrants have arrived by boat in Italy this year. According to the latest data from the Italian interior ministry, the number currently stands at more than 28,500 people, more than twice as many as at the same point in time in the pandemic year 2020 and almost eight times as many as at the same point in time in 2019.

The death toll has been on the rise this year, too: According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of people who have died trying to cross the central Mediterranean in the first seven months of 2021 has nearly tripled compared to the same period last year. The deadliest shipwreck so far this year took place on April 22 off Libya, when 130 people drowned.

In regards to returns, Libya's coast guard has intercepted and brought back to Libya more than 18,000 people thus far this year including nearly 1,200 women and 637 minors, according to the latest IOM figures. Last year, 12,000 people were intercepted and returned.

With dpa, KNA

 

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