Libyan navy rescues 272 migrants from stranded boats

Libyan navy rescues 272 migrants from stranded boats

The Italian coastguard said the migrants had been spotted on Saturday morning by a plane patrolling the seas on behalf of a European anti-smuggling operation.

Flavio Di Giacomo of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) tweeted Monday that survivors interviewed by the agency in Catania, Sicily, after they arrived on a rescue ship said 150 people had been aboard the dinghy when it set out from the coast of Libya.

The incident was believed to be the first involving a migrant boat in the Mediterranean in 2018, according to aid agencies and non-government groups. The coast guard said there was no confirmation of Libyan authorities' statement that at least 25 migrants had died. Rescuers believe their dinghy deflated following a puncture.

"We are looking for any eventual survivors", Liardo said, adding the search would continue through the night. However, the boat had been carrying 150 migrants, survivors said, with numerous dead vanishing beneath the waves.

Eighty-six people were plucked from the stricken rubber dinghy on Saturday and eight bodies - all women - were recovered.

The Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, whose boat wasn't involved in the rescue, says many migrants were in the water for hours before being saved and that as many as dozens might still be missing.

Migrants in a dinghy are rescued by Libyan coast guards off the coast of Garabulli early Monday, east of Tripoli.

The coastguard said dozens of other people who were on board are missing.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants have been rescued at sea and taken to southern Italian ports in the last few years, including almost 119,000 last year.

Some 3,081 migrants were believed to have died in the crossing of the Mediterranean in 2017, according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR. Some 119,000 migrants arrived that way in Italy in 2017.

Human rights advocates, while opposed to trafficking, have criticized that approach, saying it means the mostly sub-Saharan migrants are then trapped in slave-like conditions in detention camps in Libya.

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