Italian coastguard rescues 4,000 refugees

Some 4,000 refugees have been rescued in Strait of Sicily, Italy's coastguard says

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Rescue operation by Italian Navy vessels off the coast of Sicily.

Updated Apr 13, 2016

Some 4,000 refugees have been rescued from boats in the past two days and 2,154 refugees were brought to safety in the Strait of Sicily between Italy and north Africa, on top of the 1,850 rescued in the area on Monday, according to Italy’s coastguard.

A vessel from the EU border agency Frontex and a Greek cargo ship assisted the Italian navy in conducting a total of 25 rescue operations involving 16 dinghies and a rowing boat, officials said. All the passengers survived.

War-torn Libya is the main jump-off point for refugees trying to reach Europe from north Africa. 

A spokesman for the Libyan navy said that country's coastguard intercepted a further six inflatable boats carrying 649 refugees off Sabratha, near Libya's border with Tunisia, on Tuesday.

According to the United Nations, 19,900 refugees have crossed the Mediterranean to Italy so far this year, compared with 153,000 landing in Greece.

As the UN refugee agency reports, some 17,500 people have reached Italy since the start of 2016.

Two weeks ago, around 1,600 refugees were rescued in Sicily raising questions about what could happen when the weather becomes warmer and the sea gets calmer for the refugees to make the dangerous cross with boats.

Europe in attempting to shut down the passage from Turkey to Greece, which would result in the refugees finding an alternate route for their journey. The Mediterranean passage from Libya to Italy seems to be the most probable route.