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Nearly 3,700 migrants rescued from boats near the coast of Libya over the weekend

NewsBy Neil Fetherston
Thousands of migrants have been rescued over the weekend. FILE PHOTO
Thousands of migrants have been rescued over the weekend. FILE PHOTO

Nearly 3,700 migrants were rescued from boats near the coast of Libya over the weekend with more rescue operations expected during the day as people smugglers took advantage of calm seas, Italy’s coast guard said.

All of those rescued were being brought back to Italian shores, a spokesman for the coast guard said, and some reached Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost island, during the night.

The mild spring weather and the calm summer seas are expected to push total arrivals in Italy for 2015 to 200,000, an increase of 30,000 over last year, according to an Interior Ministry projection.

Migrants at the Abu Salim detention centre in Tripoli, where men sleep on pads completely covering the floors of two rooms, bedbugs swarming around them. Arab and African migrants are churning through Libya – where border security is nearly nonexistent, corruption is rampant and human smuggling operations are growing ever more callous and brazen – and boarding boats to cross the Mediterranean.

The nationalities of those rescued had not yet been determined.

Italy’s navy, coast guard and finance police were involved, as was a French ship acting on behalf of the European border control agency.

Growing lawlessness and anarchy in Libya is giving free hand to people smugglers who make an average of €80,000 from each boatload of migrants, according to an ongoing investigation by a southern Italian court.

Shocked by what was described as the most deadly Mediterranean shipwreck in memory last month, EU leaders agreed to triple funding for its Triton sea patrol mission after a migrant boat capsized and up to 900 drowned.