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Italy rescues 1,850 migrants in Strait of Sicily

Two small boats carrying a total of 740 people were intercepted by the coastguard ship Diciotti.

By: AFP | Rome |
April 12, 2016 9:34:56 am
Italy migrants, Italy refugees, Sicily migrants, Italy Sicily migrants, Italian Navy migrants Sicily A baby peers from a tent looking at the northern Greek border station of Idomeni, Monday, March 14, 2016. Bad weather returned after a brief pause and conditions in the refugee camp on the Greek-Macedonian border where about 14,000 people are stranded have further deteriorated, many of its residents struggling to cope with the many challenges posed by the heavy rain. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

The Italian coastguard has rescued 1,850 migrants in eight operations in the Strait of Sicily, as a wave of boats departing from the Libyan coast intensifies.

Two small boats carrying a total of 740 people were intercepted by the coastguard ship Diciotti, while Italian Navy vessel Cigala Fulgosi came to the aid of two inflatable dinghies with 255 people on board, a coastguard statement said on Monday.

A merchant ship was diverted to help another 117 people, while an EU naval force vessel picked up 738 migrants trying to cross on two barges and a small boat. According to UN refugee agency data at the end of March, some 17,500 people have arrived in Italy since the start of the year.

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Two weeks ago nearly 1,600 migrants were rescued in the same area, adding to fears that calmer seas at the onset of spring are encouraging greater numbers of migrants to attempt the perilous crossing after a winter lull. There are also concerns that European efforts to shut down the migrant sea crossing from Turkey to Greece will encourage more people to attempt the more dangerous Mediterranean passage from Libya to Italy.

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