Italy Arrests Egyptian After Cold Kills Seven Migrants

File photo of migrants on a boat.

 

Italian police said Saturday they had arrested an Egyptian suspected of trafficking migrants across the Mediterranean during a trip that left seven people dead from hypothermia.

The suspect is accused of organising the dangerous crossing by a boat carrying 287 people from Libya. Most were suffering from the cold when they were rescued by the coast guard on January 25.

Police in the Sicilian city of Agrigento said in a statement that the ordeal on the overcrowded, 16-metre boat ended “with the death, by hypothermia, of seven Bangladeshi citizens, due to the inhumane conditions of the voyage.”

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The 38-year-old suspect, who was identified through witness testimony of survivors, had already been sentenced for a 2011 people smuggling crime in Sicily, police said, without providing further detail.

Winter weather has not been a deterrent for migrants crossing the Mediterranean this year despite freezing temperatures and rough seas.

So far this year, some 10,570 migrants have reached Europe by sea, out of a total of 11,986, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Some 229 have died or gone missing in the attempt to reach the continent.

AFP

Rescue Ship Picks Up Over 200 Migrants In Mediterranean

mediterranean
File Photo of the Mediterranean.

 

The migrant rescue ship Ocean Viking has rescued 203 people, including 67 minors, in recent days, its owner SOS Mediterranee said Sunday.

The migrants came from Egypt, Gambia, Libya, South Sudan, Syria and Tunisia, the non-governmental organisation said in comments posted on Twitter.

They were rescued in four separate operations since Thursday.

In once rescue in the waters around Malta on Sunday, Ocean Viking picked up 71 migrants who were in an overloaded wooden boat that had embarked from Libya three days earlier, SOS Mediterranee said.

They had used up reserves of food and water and four people “had to be evacuated on stretchers”, the group added.

Since the start of the year, 886 migrants have died in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe, according to figures compiled by the International Organisation for Migration.

SOS Mediterranee says it has rescued more than 30,000 people since February 2016.

Malta To Accept Migrants After Shipwreck In Mediterranean

The ‘Iuventa’, a rescue ship run by young German NGO ‘Jugend Rettet’ (Youth Saves), sails off the Libyan coast during a rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea.  ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

 

Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Sunday said his country will take in 19 migrants rescued after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean overnight.

Seventeen migrants had initially been rescued by Malta’s armed forces in the country’s search and rescue area, but a pregnant woman and child were then saved after survivors said they were missing.

“We have found them, and they are all alive,” Muscat told journalists, adding that he had given instructions for the group to be brought to Malta.

However, Malta is still refusing to take in 40 migrants who have been stranded for a week after being rescued by a commercial ship within the country’s search and rescue area.

On Thursday the government strongly rejected reports that Malta broke international rules by directing the migrants to disembark in Tunisia.

“The applicable conventions stipulate that disembarkation should take place at the nearest place of safety. Tunisia was the nearest place of safety,” the government said in a statement.

Tunisia has also refused to take in the 40 migrants, who are now stranded off the Tunisian port of Zarzis on the ship that rescued them, as letting them land would set a precedent.

In recent years Malta has normally only accepted rescued migrants on its shores if they were saved in the country’s territorial waters or in cases of medical emergencies.

Europe has been rocked by a burgeoning crisis over what to do with the influx of people fleeing conflict and persecution across the Mediterranean after Italy’s new populist government started turning away rescue ships.

Italy has since tried to push Malta to accept more migrants, but the authorities in capital Valletta have often turned them down, saying that the operations took place closer to the shores of Tunisia or Italy’s own islands.

Pope Francis waded into the fractious debate on Sunday, calling on the international community to act “decisively and quickly” to prevent further shipwrecks tragedies in the Mediterranean.

“In recent weeks there have been dramatic reports of shipwrecks of boats loaded with migrants,” he said, adding that the “safety, respect of rights and the dignity of all must be guaranteed”.

AFP

50,872 Migrants Have Crossed The Mediterranean To Europe This Year – UN

The number of migrants arriving in Spain by boat is surging, the UN said Tuesday, and it has now surpassed Italy as the top destination for Mediterranean crossings.

So far this year, 50,872 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe — less than half the number that made the treacherous journey during the same period of 2017, according to the UN migration agency.

But while the overall numbers have fallen dramatically, Spain has seen landings on its shores nearly triple, IOM said.

“As we have predicted for several weeks now, Spain has become the most active route of African migrants and people using Africa as a stepping stone into Europe,” agency spokesman Joel Millman told reporters in Geneva.

Spain “surpassed Italy this past weekend,” he said.

In all, 18,061 migrants have arrived in Spain since January, compared to 6,500 during the first half of 2017, with nearly 10,000 of those arrivals registered in June alone.

At the same time, arrivals in Italy total 17,827 since the beginning of the year — compared to 93,237 during the same period last year.

The dramatic drop of Italian arrivals came after a controversial deal reached between Rome and the Libyan coastguard a year ago.

The numbers have fallen further since Italy’s new populist government pushed the issue to the forefront of the EU agenda last month by refusing to open the country’s ports to a number of NGO migrant rescue ships operating in the Mediterranean.

Spain has opened its ports to several rescue ships run by charities which were turned away from Italy.

AFP

Nearly 1,000 Migrants Rescued Off Libya Coast

File photo of migrants crossing the Mediterranean sea.

 

Libya’s coastguard has rescued nearly 1,000 migrants who were on boats in distress in the Mediterranean on their way to Europe, the Navy said on Monday.

Three separate operations took place on Sunday with the coastguard bringing ashore in Libya a total of 948 migrants, navy spokesman Ayoub Kacem said.

The migrants were on inflatable dinghies which were facing difficulties in the Mediterranean off the coast of Garabulli east of the capital Tripoli, navy officer Rami Ghommeidh said.

A first group of 97 migrants were rescued, while a second operation brought 361 migrants — including 88 women and 44 children — ashore and late in the evening a final group of 490 migrants were rescued, said Kacem.

In all a total of 2,000 migrants trying to make the perilous journey to Europe, often on unseaworthy boats, were either intercepted or assisted by the Libyan navy since Wednesday.

Monday’s announcement by the Navy came as Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was en route to Libya for talks on the migrant crisis.

Salvini, who has vowed a hardline stance on migrants, posted a selfie on Twitter showing him on board a military plane heading for Libya and wrote: “Mission Libya, we’ve left!”.

He is the first member of Italy’s new populist government to visit the North African country, a former Italian colony.

On Sunday Salvini ordered foreign charities to stop rescuing migrants off Libya even as reports emerged of that a group of nearly 1,000 were on boats in distress in the Mediterranean.

“Let the Libyan authorities do their work of rescue, recovery and return (of migrants) to their country, as they have been doing for some time, without the ships of the voracious NGOs disturbing them or causing trouble,” he said.

Later on Sunday, the Italian interior minister thanked Libyan authorities for rescuing migrants trapped at sea.

“I would like to express my heartfelt thanks, as a minister and as a father, to the authorities and the Libyan coastguard,” he said in a tweet.

“Today they saved and brought 820 immigrants back to Libya, making the ‘work’ of the traffickers in vain and avoiding wrongful interventions by NGO ships,” he added.

Libya is a key departure point for thousands of migrants hoping to reach Europe, although hundreds drown each year attempting the crossing.

AFP

255 Migrants Rescued In Mediterranean – Italian Coastguard

255 Migrants Rescued In Mediterranean – Italian Coastguard
File photo

 

Some 255 migrants were rescued overnight in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya, just before a front of bad weather hit the area, the Italian coastguard said Tuesday.

The non-governmental organisation Proactiva Open Arms picked up a rubber dinghy carrying 134 people, including seven children, on Monday night. They were to be transferred to the Aquarius rescue ship operated by another NGO, SOS Mediterranee, before being taken to Pozzallo in Sicily.

A military ship from the European anti-smuggling operation Sophia also rescued 121 people aboard two other boats, the coastguard said.

According to the Italian daily La Repubblica, smugglers have lowered the price of a crossing to 400 euros ($475) per person, in part due to the bad winter weather, but they are still cramming as many migrants as possible into the dinghies.

In his traditional Christmas address on Monday, Pope Francis urged people around the world not to forget the plight of migrants, who had been “driven from their land” because of leaders willing to shed “innocent blood”.

No-one should feel “there is no room for them on this Earth,” Francis told tens of thousands of worshippers gathered at the Vatican for his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” Christmas message.

AFP

3,000 Migrants Died In Mediterranean This Year – IOM

A Libyan coast guardsman stands on a boat during the rescue of 147 illegal immigrants attempting to reach Europe off the coastal town of Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the capital Tripoli, on June 27, 2017. PHOTO: Taha JAWASHI / AFP

More than 3,000 migrants and refugees have died crossing the Mediterranean in a desperate bid to reach Europe’s shores since the start of the year, the International Organization for Migration said Tuesday.

The figure so far represents a 40 percent drop compared to last year’s record of 5,000 known or suspected drownings.

“That mark (was) probably passed sometime over last weekend,” when more than 30 migrants died off the coast of Libya, IOM spokesman Joel Millman told reporters in Geneva.

The 3,033 deaths happened across three main sea routes in the Mediterranean.

“We’ve been saying this for years and we’ll keep on saying it: It’s no longer enough to simply count these tragic statistics. We must also act,” IOM director general William Lacy Swing said in a statement.

The number of migrants and refugees who have arrived in Europe this year — nearly 164,000 — is less than half of last year’s total of 348,000.

Three-quarters of the arrivals in 2017 have been in Italy, the remainder in Greece, Cyprus and Spain.

The flow has been stemmed by controversial deals between the EU, Turkey and Libya.

The EU has been desperate to slow the migrant influx via Libya and Turkey, the two main routes, with more than 1.5 million people reaching Europe since 2015.

The UN has condemned as “inhuman” the EU’s cooperation with Libya, where migrants are being held in “horrific” prisons and have even been auctioned off as slaves.

AFP

Spain Rescues 250 Migrants In Mediterranean

File photo

Spanish authorities said they rescued over 250 migrants, including children, on Saturday who were making the perilous Mediterranean crossing to Europe.

“We saved 251 people from five improvised vessels all in the Alboran Sea,” Spain’s maritime safety authorities said on Twitter, referring to the westernmost portion of the Mediterranean Sea.

The number of migrants arriving by sea on Spanish shores has soared over last year, with the figure nearly tripling to 15,585 in 2017 by November 8, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Many Africans undertaking the long route to Europe are choosing to avoid crossing danger-ridden Libya to get to Italy along the so-called central Mediterranean route, and choosing instead to get there via Morocco and Spain.

However, Spain is still well behind Italy, which has recorded some 114,400 arrivals by sea since since the start of the year.

Since January nearly 15,600 migrants have made it to Spain by sea, with 156 dying during the crossing, according to the IOM.

The agency estimates that some 155,850 migrants have made the dangerous crossing to Europe this year and another 2,961 died or went missing while trying.

AFP

Over 200 Migrant Children Rescued in Mediterranean

File photo of would-be immigrants resting on the deck of an Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) patrol boat after arriving at the AFM Maritime Squadron base at Haywharf in Valletta’s Marsamxett Harbour. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
A migrant rescue ship in the Mediterranean carried hundreds of children and unaccompanied minors from over 15 countries to safety in Italy on Friday.

 

The Aquarius, a boat operated by charity group SOS Mediterranee along with Doctors Without Borders (MSF), brought 606 people including 241 minors to Palermo after a series of rescues at sea on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nearly 180 of the youngsters were unaccompanied, the group said. Rescuers could be seen carrying the youngest charges off the ship, including toddlers in pyjamas and a week-old baby wrapped up tightly in a pink blanket.

“The many rescue operations carried out by Aquarius in recent days over a very wide geographical area show that the humanitarian crisis is still underway or even worsening in the central Mediterranean,” SOS Mediterranee said.

Among the women pulled to safety from unseaworthy dinghies, 11 were pregnant, two in their ninth month.

The migrants, who set sail from Libya for Italy, came from countries including Benin, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Syria, Somalia and Yemen.

Numerous migrants told aid workers they had been victims of sexual violence and torture in conflict-hit Libya, where they were held as prisoner for months.

AFP

606 Migrants From Nigeria, Others Rescued In Mediterranean

A migrant rescue ship in the Mediterranean carried hundreds of children and unaccompanied minors from over 15 countries to safety in Italy on Friday.

The Aquarius, a boat operated by charity group SOS Mediterranee along with Doctors Without Borders (MSF), brought 606 people including 241 minors to Palermo after a series of rescues at sea on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nearly 180 of the youngsters were unaccompanied, the group said. Rescuers could be seen carrying the youngest charges off the ship, including toddlers in pyjamas and a week-old baby wrapped up tightly in a pink blanket.

“The many rescue operations carried out by Aquarius in recent days over a very wide geographical area show that the humanitarian crisis is still underway or even worsening in the central Mediterranean,” SOS Mediterranee said.

Among the women pulled to safety from unseaworthy dinghies, 11 were pregnant, two in their ninth month.

The migrants, who set sail from Libya for Italy, came from countries including Benin, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Syria, Somalia and Yemen.

Numerous migrants told aid workers they had been victims of sexual violence and torture in conflict-hit Libya, where they were held prisoner for months.

AFP

Nigerian Woman Gives Birth On Rescue Ship

Mediterranean, Nigerian woman, rescue ship
PHOTO: MSF

A healthy baby boy has been born to a Nigerian woman, aboard a rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea.

The parents, Otas and Faith Oqunbor, had been rescued from an overcrowded rubber boat.

They had been making the journey across the sea, with their two other children, aged seven and five, and were rescued just 24 hours before the baby, whom they named Newman Otas, was born.

MSF communications officer, Alva White took to Twitter on Monday to report the baby’s birth.

“Just over an hour ago a baby boy was born on board the Aquarius. Mum, bub, dad and two big brothers are all well,” she said.

Mrs Oqunbor said that she had experienced contractions for three days.

Medecins Sans Frontier said that because baby Otas was born on international waters, his nationality is still debatable,” the gorgeous little guy was born in international waters so his nationality is still under discussion.”

At least 392 people had been on the same boat with the Oqunbors before the rescue. Seven of them were pregnant.

EgyptAir ‘Black Boxes’ To Be Sent To France

EgyptAir, MS804, Disappeared, RadarEgyptian investigators say the damaged flight recorders ‘black boxes’ from the EgyptAir aircraft that crashed in May would be sent to France for repairs.

The Egyptian investigation committee said in a statement that France’s BEA accident investigators would help to remove salt deposits from the chips before they were returned to Egypt for analysis that is crucial to unravelling what caused the Airbus A320 to crash.

The Egyptian investigators also said that French forensics experts would be arriving in Egypt to help retrieve human remains as a specialist ship attempts to map the wreckage.

With little debris and no bodies recovered, investigators hope analysis of the black boxes will help them piece together what happened in the final half hour of the flight.

The Airbus A320 was en route from Paris to Cairo when it vanished from radar in the Eastern Mediterranean in May.

All 66 people on board the plane were killed.

Some wreckage from the plane was later found about 290kilometre north of the Egyptian port city of Alexandria.