ROME – At least 1,469 migrants were rescued in the past 24 hours while trying to sail from Libya to Italy, the Italian coast guard reported in a statement.
The navy and coast guard were tasked with rescuing the people on board the boats that were heading for the Italian coast on the weekend, part of a new wave of immigrant arrivals after several weeks of calm.
The first call for help was put in to the Coast Guard Center in Rome on Saturday saying that three boats were adrift off the Libyan coast, from where migrants hoping to make it to Italian territory – and the European Union – frequently set sail.
Italian coast guard frigates located three boats carrying 82, 459 and 257 migrants, respectively.
According to the Coast Guard statement, soon afterwards two other boats were spotted a short distance away carrying 349 and 322 immigrants, and those people were also picked up.
The boats were en route to the Sicilian ports of Lampedusa, Augusta and Porto Empedocle.
According to the latest figures – from February – provided by the Italian Interior Ministry, the number of migrants who have made it to Italian territory across the Mediterranean Sea has risen by 43 percent over the same period last year. This year, 7,882 migrants have disembarked this year, compared with 5,506 during the same period in 2014.
If the current inflow keeps up, it would break the record of more than 160,000 illegal migrants who arrived in Italy last year, which was approximately four times the number who arrived in 2013.