Multiple Italian Coastguard migrant rescues underway

The Italian coastguard on Friday March 10th launched several rescue operations to save hundreds of migrants who were on several boats off the toe of Italy, all under threat of capsizing.

It was less than two weeks since at least 73 migrants drowned in a shipwreck.

The president of the southern Calabria region, Roberto Occhiuto, said a total of around 1,300 migrants were aboard boats which the EU border force Frontex had warned could run into problems. Three coastguard boats were trying to offload around 500 migrants on a vessel that was 110 km south of the Calabrian town of Crotone – close to the scene of the disaster on February 26th.

The coastguard said it sent two boats to rescue about 800 migrants aboard two more vessels that were further out to sea. An Italian navy ship was also headed to the area to help out. The ICG said that the rescue operations were “particularly complex due to the large number of people on board the boats adrift”.

In a separate incident earlier on Friday, the coastguard picked up almost 500 migrants close to the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, local media reported. “In the last days, we have seen an increase in attempts to cross the Central Mediterranean,” Frontex told Reuters. “Only since yesterday, our planes and drones have detected 20 boats carrying hundreds of people heading towards the Italian shores. The weather conditions will be deteriorating in the upcoming hours.”

More than 3,000 people had reached Italy since Wednesday March 8th, compared to around 1,300 for the whole of March last year.

More than 1,850 migrants from 41 separate boats arrived on Lampedusa alone on Thursday, according to the ANSA news agency.