Julian Robinson, Daily Mail, August 31, 2016
Thousands of migrants are ‘racing against the clock’ to make the perilous crossing from Libya to Europe before summer ends, with authorities in the conflict-torn country at a loss to stem the flow.
Improved weather is said to have triggered this week’s mass outflow that has seen more than 10,000 migrants rescued since Sunday from floundering boats.
The migrants are ‘racing against the clock because they fear the start of autumn when conditions will not be so good’ out at sea, according to Abdel Hamid al-Souei from Libya’s Red Crescent.
Most of the migrants from the Horn of Africa and the west of the continent set out from the Libyan town of Sabratha, just 180 miles across the Mediterranean from the Italian island of Lampedusa.
People traffickers have exploited Libya’s rampant insecurity to cash in, as authorities concentrate their limited resources on combating jihadists and an uphill political battle to extend their writ over the entire country.
‘Our patrols have been reduced lately because the vessels are ageing and we don’t have the means to control the Sabratha coast,’ Libya’s navy chief, Colonel Ayoub Qassem, said in Tripoli.
Rescuers saved 3,000 migrants in the waters off Libya on Tuesday as they tried desperately to reach Europe, a day after a record 6,500 people were rescued in the Mediterranean.
And after several weeks of relative calm in the waters between Italy and Libya, more than 1,100 people were rescued on Sunday.
On Tuesday morning, a woman gave birth on board one of the rescue vessels–operated by Italy’s coastguard and navy as well as NGOs–as it made its way to the Italian coast.
She and her newborn were taken by speedboat to the island of Lampedusa, while the rest of the migrants made their way to several ports in Sicily, Sardinia and southern Italy.
The total number of arrivals in Italy this year now stands at 112,500, according to the UN refugee agency and the coastguard, slightly below the 116,000 recorded by the same point in 2015.
More than 3,100 people have died trying to reach Europe this year.