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This ship belonging to the organisation MOAS, an NGO, rescued more than 1,500 persons in 24 hours of uninterrupted operations during a harrowing weekend of frantic humanitarian action / Photo: Darrin Zammit/MOAS

Record numbers of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean as crisis takes dramatic turn

More than 8,000 migrants trying to reach Europe were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea during the Easter weekend.

The Associated Press news agency said that 8,300 people were saved, including 1,300 in 13 search-and-rescue missions by the EU’s border agency Frontex.

CNN, citing the Italian coastguards, said that 8,500 people were saved. Seven people were confirmed dead on Sunday after their boat sank off the Libyan coast.

Rescue ships took in thousands of survivors from inflatable boats in deteriorating weather in the Mediterranean between Friday and Sunday.

The humanitarian actions took a dramatic turn as rescuers had to keep a close watch on around 1,000 migrants in vessels floating near their ship. They could not be picked up because the rescue vessel had reached capacity with others it had already picked up.

As maximum capacity was reached, life jackets, basic provisions and supervision were then given to the more than 1,000 people who remained stranded on unseaworthy vessels.

The refugees were finally picked up as new ships arrived.

The weekend is set to be the latest highpoint in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, nearly 32,000 migrants have arrived in Europe by sea so far this year.

More than 650 are feared to have died.

It’s a shame that African governments have not deemed it necessary to find a solution to the situation of hundreds of thousands of their citizens trapped in Libya.

The desperation of the migrants, who suffer severe abuses including slavery and rape, make them easy prey for traffickers who load the refugees into boats that are not sea-worthy.

Kwame Appiah

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