Nearly 3,700 Migrants Rescued in Mediterranean, Operation OngoingWorld | May 3, 2015, Sunday // 16:08| views
File photo by EPA/BGNES
Some 3,700 migrants have been rescued off Libya’s coast in a joint operation of Italian and French navy vessels on Saturday and early Sunday, according to the Italian Coast Guard.
A Coast Guard spokesman said all of those rescued were being brought back to Italian shores and some reached Italy's southernmost island of Lampedusa during the night. The coast guard expected rescue operations to continue throughout Sunday.
Most of the migrants are believed to be from Syria, Libya and Eritrea.
With people smugglers taking advantage of improved weather conditions to send overcrowded wooden boats and dinghies from Africa across the Mediterranean, the Italian Navy is bracing for an increased influx of migrants.
According to an Interior Ministry forecast, Italy expects total migrant arrivals at its shores to rise by 30,000 this year, reaching 200,000.
At least 1,750 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year. The number is a twenty-fold increase over the same period last year, when 96 people died.
European Union leaders said last month they would triple the funding for rescue operations run by EU border agency Frontex, and threatened to sink smugglers' boats to stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean. People smugglers reportedly earn about EUR 80,000 on average from every boatload of migrants, according to an Italian court investigation.
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