Ships belonging to the Italian navy, coast guard and various humanitarian organizations rescued close to 4,500 migrants bound for Europe Thursday, as boatloads of asylum-seekers set off from North Africa prompted by a calming of waters in the Mediterranean Sea.
The migrants were picked up from about 40 different boats, a spokesman for Italy’s coast guard told Reuters. The body of a woman was taken from one of the rubber boats. Across the Mediterranean, Libya’s navy intecepted another 1,000 people off the coast of the African country’s port city Sabratha, a spokesman said.
According to a humanitarian group called the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, the sudden surge in departures is “probably the result of week-long, unfavorable weather conditions” coming to an end.
The number of refugees attempting to make the treacherous crossing to Greek islands has reduced by about 98% in 2016 compared to the same period last year, due to an agreement between the European Union and Turkey, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
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