Italy reports 3,600 migrant rescues in two days

Updated: 2015-05-15 09:45


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Italy reports 3,600 migrant rescues in two days

Migrants crowd the deck of their wooden boat off the coast of Libya, May 14, 2015. International non-governmental organisations Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) and MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) rescued 561 migrants at sea off the coast of Libya on Thursday, according to Maltese media. Their vessel, the Phoenix, is the first privately funded vessel to operate in the Mediterranean. [Photo/Agencies]

CATANIA, Italy - Almost 3,600 migrants have been rescued from overcrowded boats sailing from Africa to Europe over the past 48 hours, Italy said on Thursday, with sea conditions seen as perfect for attempting the crossing.

As more than 600 migrants were brought ashore at the port of Catania in Sicily, rescuers plucked another 2,500 from rickety boats off the coast of Libya, the coast guard said.

Most of those who arrived in Catania had been picked up by the British warship HMS Bulwark and were Somali and Nigerian, port officials said.

With Libya engulfed in strife, people smugglers are increasingly free to pack migrants onto unsafe boats, and they are expected to push total arrivals in Italy for 2015 to 200,000, an increase of 30,000 on last year, according to an Interior Ministry projection.

Sandra Dike, a heavily pregnant 20-year-old Nigerian woman, said she left her home country because of the danger of attacks by the armed Islamist group Boko Haram.

"It's not safe to go to a public place, like a church, the market. They (Boko Haram) might bomb the place at any time," she said. "The war in Libya is worse. That's why we decided to come to Italy."

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