Reuters news agency reports today that a growing number of migrants are crossing from Libya to Italy as it has now become the main migrant route to Europe. Crossing in unstable and overcrowded boats, more than 181,000 migrants came to Italy in 2016. The number of people arriving are up about 30 percent compared with the same period last year. It is estimated that 850 have died this year attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
However, according to United Nations aid agencies, close to 9000, mostly Africans, were rescued over the Easter weekend alone. This is spawning a debate about whether an increase in rescue vessel patrols closer to Libya is contributing to the increase in migrants reaching Italy. According to the report, Italy abandoned its search and rescue mission in 2014 which has given rise to non-government rescue organizations.
American businessman Chris Catrambone along with his Italian wife Regina founded the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) in 2014. Speaking by telephone from his private rescue vessel Phoenix, Catrambone said, “The priority needs to be saving lives, not patrolling a make-believe border.” As he was speaking, he was steaming towards Sicily with 463 migrants on board.
Reuters report found here.