Rescues Save 2,000 Asylum Seekers From Mediterranean Sea

Rescues Save 2,000 Asylum Seekers From Mediterranean SeaRescues Save 2,000 Asylum Seekers From Mediterranean Sea

More than 2,000 asylum seekers trying to reach Europe were plucked from the Mediterranean Sea on Friday in a series of dramatic rescues.

An Italian coastguard spokesman said 19 rescue operations by the coastguard or ships operated by non-governmental organizations had saved a total of 2,074 people on 16 overcrowded rubber dinghies and three small wooden boats, Aljazeera reported.

One person was found dead, the spokesman said. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) boats Prudence and Aquarius rescued some 1,145 people from nine dinghies in non-stop operations.

The rest of the asylum seekers were picked up by the coastguard, the Phoenix-run by the Maltese Migrant Offshore Aid Station-the German NGO Sea Eye and the German Jugend’s Iuventa.

“In 19 years of covering the migration story, I have never experienced anything like today,” said Reuters’ news agency photographer, Darrin Zammit Lupi, who was aboard the Phoenix.

“In one operation, it rescued 134 people, all from sub-Saharan countries.”

According to the International Organization for Migration, nearly 32,000 asylum seekers arrived in Europe by sea so far this year. More than 650 have died or are missing.

EU’s border control agency Frontex has accused donor-funded vessels of doing more harm than good by sailing off Libya and acting “like taxis”, and Italian prosecutors have suggested they may have links with traffickers-a charge they have fiercely denied.

“How many people would have crossed if we weren’t there today, Frontex? Probably the same. How many would have died? Probably, many more,” MSF said on Twitter.

“Where are Frontex boats in a day like this? EU states keep their blind eyes turned.”

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