Southern Mediterranean: North African migrant emergency means cruisers should be vigilant

The governor of Sicily has declared a state of

Migrant Map: ©

emergency because of the large numbers of migrants it is having to deal with. The order will release funds for aid workers helping the now daily arrivals of hundreds of migrants from Africa and Syria.

Italian officials say 370 migrants were rescued from three boats in the waters between Libya and Sicily on Tuesday. The migrants were all being transferred to the island of Lampedusa. Italy has a nationwide civil protection service and the state of emergency means that they will be able to carry out their work of looking after the new arrivals more efficiently, the BBC’s David Willey reports from Rome.

The latest rescues come a day after Italy announced increased patrols following the deaths of hundreds of migrants sailing in overcrowded boats. On Friday, at least 33 people died when their boat capsized between Malta and Lampedusa. A week earlier, more than 350 migrants died in another shipwreck off the island, one of the deadliest such incidents in recent years.

Italy has previously called for EU help in dealing with the thousands of desperate migrants who wash up on its beaches every year. Many are families fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East who hope for a better life in Europe.

On Monday, Italian Defence Minister Mario Mauro said the country intended to triple its presence in the southern Mediterranean. “We need strong action to stop these shipwrecks,” he told Italian newspaper Avvenire.

In addition to coastguard and border police vessels, the Italian navy currently has three ships supported by four helicopters patrolling the area. It can also call on two surveillance aircraft with night-vision capabilities.

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