Scores of Bangladeshis among hundreds rescued in Mediterranean

Trapani (Italy), Feb 23 (IANS/AKI) A group of 75 Bangladeshis were among 394 people due to reach the Sicilian port of Trapani after their rescue off the Libyan coast, the SOS Mediterranee charity said on Thursday.

The migrants are due to dock in Trapani on Friday aboard SOS Mediterranee’s Aquarius rescue ship after they were picked up on Wednesday, the charity tweeted.

Most of the migrants are from sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Italian coastguard, which is coordinating rescue operations in the central Mediterranean.

A total of 630 migrants arrived in the eastern Sicilian port city of Catania on Wednesday after they were saved in the Mediterranean in two operations, the Italian coastguard said.

The number of attempted crossings has surged this year, with most departures taking place from the west of Libya, from where Italy is just 300 kilometres away.

A total 10,000 boat migrants arrived in Italy through 19 February while 3,170 reached Greece and Spain, the International Organisation for Migration said on Tuesday.

The number of arrivals in Italy in 2017 was significantly higher than the average of 8,000 over the same period during the previous two years, IMO said.

European Union leaders agreed at a summit in Malta earlier this month to a plan to stop the influx of migrants to Italy from Libya, including 200 million euros to help strengthen its coastguard.

Non-government organisations have criticised the plan, saying they fear migrants stranded in conflict-wracked Libya could suffer mistreatment.