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Charity resumes search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean

22 Jul 2019

The international rescue charity SOS Méditerranée has announced that it is resuming its search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya. The resumption of operations comes after action by Italy and other European countries effectively thwarted the landing of migrants and refugees rescued from boats in distress attempting the crossing to Europe. The Italian authorities have detained rescue boats, arrested their captains and introduced large fines for rescue organisations trying to bring people to safety in Italian ports. However, in a recent case an Italian court freed a rescue boat captain who had been charged with endangering lives. 

Although the number of migrants and refugees attempting the perilous Mediterranean crossing has declined in the last few years, the proportion of those dying in the attempt has increased. Figures from the International Organization for Migration indicate that at least 426 people have died trying to cross the central Mediterranean in 2019 so far.

In a further example of the risks that some migrants are prepared to take, the French authorities reported that they had rescued a migrant as he tried to swim the 21 miles across the English Channel to the UK with flippers and a float. The man was suffering from mild hypothermia when he was picked up. The British authorities also intercepted 38 people in three separate boats attempting the Channel crossing within just a few hours of each other.

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