Coastguards say they recused almost 9,000 African migrants over the weekend
Coastguards said they saved 8,360 refugees after they were cast off from Libya in a desperate bid to reach southern Italy.
They clambered aboard 55 rubber dinghies, each carrying between 110 and 150 people, and three big wooden boats, carrying 200, 250 and 500 people.
Babar Baloch, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said: “This was an overwhelming search and rescue operation by all sides involved.”
Heartbreaking images of migrants held in Libya detention centre
Tue, March 7, 2017
Sixty women, 20 children and 115 men were being held at the detention centre when UNICEF visited on 29th January 2017. Conditions at the centre are poor, with dozens of people crowded into small spaces on old mattresses.
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A migrant gestures from behind the bars of a cell at a detention centre in Libya
Smugglers are using the good weather to send asylum seekers to Europe
At least 900 migrants have died or gone missing attempting to reach Europe by sea so far this year, while 36,000 have been rescued, compared to 24,000 last year, as better weather encourages smugglers to take migrants out of detention centres and set them on a course to the major European gateways of Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain.
There are also signs increasing numbers from sub-Saharan Africa are crossing the Mediterranean in a bid to reach the continent.
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The asylum seekers were travelling to Europe from Libya
Hundreds of thousands of mainly Syrian refugees used the short but precarious corridor between Greece and Turkey in small inflatable boats, but the popular route was sealed off after an EU-Turkey deal was signed last year.
Better weather has led to an upsurge in numbers trying to reach Italy from north Africa, where people-smugglers continue to operate with impunity.