Some 600 migrants rescued at sea arrived Friday in Sicily — one of the biggest influxes since Italy struck a deal with Libyan authorities to limit migrant smuggling — raising concerns of a renewed surge on the Libyan human trafficking route.
The migrants, including many unaccompanied minors from sub-Saharan Africa, were rescued in seven operations over 36 hours, and transported Friday to Palermo by the German non-governmental organization SOS Mediterranee.
They came as three weeks of fighting around the Libyan city of Sabratha has destabilized militias that pledged to help reduce the flow of migrant smuggling across the Mediterranean Sea, leaving many migrants and refugees displaced.
SOS Mediterranee President Valeria Calandra told Sky TG24 that the renewed instability in Libya has only increased the desire of migrants to escape the lawless North African country. “It was very improbable that from today to tomorrow you can stop everyone,” she said. “I think this rescue is the first of many others that will arrive.”
The number of migrants dropped dramatically in July and August, before an uptick from 3,914 in August to 6,288 in September. Still, September arrivals were two-thirds below last year’s total for the same month, and the 2,800 arrivals so far this month are well below the 12,400 in the same period last year.
A spokesman for the UN refugee agency in Rome, Federico Fossi, said it is too early to say what is driving the recent uptick and if it will be sustained.—AP