Italian forces rescue over 1,300 migrants from Mediterranean

Rome, Feb 4 (IANS) More than 1,300 migrants and refugees were rescued in the Mediterranean, a media report said on Saturday.

On Friday, a day after Italy and Libya signed a deal to curb people smuggling in the north African country, 13 rescue operations were carried out by Italy’s navy and coast guard ships, Xinhua news agency reported.

Other forces operating within the European Union (EU) mission Eunavfor, and vessels from aid groups also joined in.

On Thursday, the Italian coast guard coordinating all migrant rescue efforts in the Mediterranean said more than 1,750 migrants and refugees had been saved within 24 hours.

About 450 people had been rescued in five different operations on Thursday, and 1,300 the previous day.

Of this group, some 754 migrants and refugees including 131 unaccompanied minors were brought to the southern port of Reggio Calabria, and given first medical check and assistance.

On Thursday, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and his Libyan counterpart Fayez al-Serraj signed an agreement aimed at tackling the flows starting from the Libyan coasts.

In latest years, the north African country has become a major origin point of departure for migrants and asylum seekers, and a crucial hub for smugglers.

Temporary camps for illegal migrants will be set up on Libya’s soil, according to the draft deal provided by the Italian government. Such camps will be run by officials from the Libyan Interior Ministry, and funded by the EU, with Italy providing medical assistance.

Illegal migrants in the camps will be asked to voluntarily return to their own countries, or face deportation.

Such plan will be in force for the next three years, and was overall approved by EU leaders who gathered for a summit on the migration crisis in Malta on February 2-3.