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Italy mobilizes to rescue 1,200 people on boats

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Italian Coast Guard boat, known as Guardia costiera (file photo)

The Italian Coast Guard is carrying out two large-scale operations to rescue some 1,200 migrants from overcrowded boats off Sicily.

About 800 people travel on one of the fishing boats, while about 400 people travel on another.

The country’s coast guard has already rescued around 2,000 people in other operations since Friday.

German non-profit organization ResQship said at least two people died during boat crossings over the weekend.

The number of immigrant arrivals in Italy has risen sharply compared to the same period last year, despite the right-wing coalition government’s efforts to crack down on irregular migration.

The boat carrying 400 people, which is believed to have departed from Tobruk in Libya, was still unassisted Monday night, according to an unofficial hotline for migrants at risk, Alarm Phone.

She says she sounded the alarm to the Italian, Greek and Maltese authorities on Sunday.

German NGO Sea-Watch International said two merchant vessels near one of the ships were ordered not to take part in the rescue effort in Malta while the boat was in Maltese waters. Instead, one of the ships was allowed to supply fuel and water. The Maltese government has not commented on this.

Alert von said she had contacted people on the boat, which is now in Italian waters southeast of Capo Passero. She added that the boat was adrift and leaking water on Sunday. A woman on board said that she was without her captain and that several people needed medical attention.

The Italian Coast Guard said a rescue operation for the 800 people on board the other boat was also under way southeast of Syracuse, but the operation was tracked down due to overcrowding on board. It was not immediately clear where the boat left from.

Other boats reached the Italian island of Lampedusa, one of the main ports of entry for those looking to reach Europe, over the weekend.

Riskship said at least two migrants died and about 20 others were missing after their boat sank on Saturday night.

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