UNITED NATIONS, April 18 (Xinhua) — The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that nearly 9,000 migrants were rescued over the past long weekend by individual non-government organizations (NGOs) and by the international flotilla, a UN spokesman told reporters here Tuesday.
“The rescued migrants were mostly Africans, but there was also a large number of Bangladeshis,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a daily news briefing here.
There have been 900 migrant deaths at sea so far in 2017, 90 percent of them on the Libya-Italy stretch, and as many as 20,000 migrants are estimated to be in detention in unofficial detention centers, according to the IOM.
“The UN refugee agency repeated its calls on the EU (European Union) and governments to help save lives,” Dujarric said.
Over the three days from April 14 to April 16, a total of 8,360 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean by the Italian Coast Guard, the many NGOs rescue ships, Frontex, EunavforMEd and commercial ships.
The migrants were travelling on 55 rubber dinghies, each carrying between 110 and 150 people, and three big wooden boats, carrying 200, 250 and 500 people respectively, the UN agency said, adding that those rescued were brought to various locations in Italy.
A total of approximately 32,800 migrants have been brought to land since the beginning of 2017. The total number of arrivals is predicted to reach about 36,000 in the next two days.
Improving weather appears to have motivated smugglers to put as many migrants to sea as possible. The overwhelming majority of the rescues occurred off Libya’s coastline, as migrants are sent to sea in overcrowded dinghies, easily overwhelmed by waves.
In one incident on April 13, 23 people were rescued and 97 are estimated to have gone missing (77 men, 15 women, and five children from Africa) off the coast of Gargaresh, near Tripoli, Libya. In another incident off the coast of Qarabulli, Libya, on the night of April 14, 101 migrants were rescued, and five migrants died.
Thirteen other bodies were recovered by NGO rescue operations, including the ships of MOAS, Sea Eye, and Jugend Rettet. Between Jan. 1 and April 18 last year, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) recorded 1,263 migrant deaths and disappearances in the Mediterranean.
The higher number of deaths at this point in 2016 is largely due to deaths on the Eastern Mediterranean route, in which 376 deaths were recorded between January and April 18, 2016, compared to only 14 so far this year.