More than 6,000 migrants have been rescued in the Mediterranean Sea in recent days attempting to make the dangerous crossing from North Africa to Europe, an official said Tuesday.
The figures suggests a sharp surge in migrants, refugees and others – many from Africa and the Middle East – trying to make the sea passage to Europe as the weather warms and smugglers increase operations.
The Mediterranean has become the main corridor for migrants trying to reach Europe aboard smugglers’ boats from Libya and elsewhere after authorities largely choked off sea routes between Turkey and Greece last year.
But the dramatic spike in Mediterranean rescues since late last week suggests even greater migrant traffic ahead, said Joel Millman, spokesman for the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration.
“This is typical of spring, getting very busy,” he said. “But it’s not typical to have the numbers be so high this early and the corresponding deaths that go with it.”
An estimated 500 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean so far this year, and more than 20,000 people have been intercepted at sea and brought to Italy and other European ports since January, Millman said.
Just in the past few days, more than 6,000 migrants have been rescued, including about 3,300 taken to Italy and others found on overcrowded and foundering vessels off Libya, the base for many smuggling networks.
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