600 migrants rescued; fears rise of new surge from Libya

MILAN — Some 600 migrants rescued at sea arrived Friday in Sicily — one of the biggest influxes since Italy struck a deal with Libyan authorities to limit migrant smuggling — raising concerns of a renewed surge on the Libyan human trafficking corridor.

The migrants, including many unaccompanied minors from sub-Saharan Africa, were rescued in seven operations over 36 hours, and transported Friday to Palermo by the German non-governmental organization SOS Mediterranee.

They came as three weeks of fighting around the Libyan city of Sabratha has destabilized militias that pledged to help reduce the flow of migrant smuggling across the Mediterranean Sea, leaving many migrants and refugees displaced.

SOS Mediterranee President Valeria Calandra told Sky TG24 that the renewed instability in Libya has only increased the desire of migrants to escape the lawless North African country.

“It was very improbable that from today to tomorrow you can stop everyone,” she said. “I think this rescue is the first of many others that will arrive.”

The number of migrants dropped dramatically in July and August, before an uptick from 3,914 in August to 6,288 in September. Still, September arrivals were two-thirds below last year’s total for the same month, and the 2,800 arrivals so far this month are well below the 12,400 in the same period last year.

A spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency in Rome, Federico Fossi, says it’s too early to say what is driving the recent uptick and if it will be sustained. He noted that even the deal with Libyan forces to stanch the flow of migrants never fully stopped the smugglers’ boats.

“In last few days, there has been a light increase. We need to see over the medium-term if there is a new trend,” he said.

The UNHCR said Friday that fierce clashes over the last three weeks near Sabratha, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of Tripoli, have stranded 3,000 Libyan families, most of whom have since returned home, and displaced more than 10,000 refugees and migrants, who remain “in need of urgent assistance.”

After taking control of detention centres that had been run by migrant traffickers, Libyan authorities transferred 4,500 migrants to a hangar in the Dahman area and others to detention centres near Tripoli, the refugee agency said.

UNHCR said it was sending emergency assistance including sleeping bags, hygiene kits, food and blankets to Libya. Many migrants were found without clothing or shoes, had suffered injuries requiring urgent medical care or were severely traumatized and in need of psychological support, the refugee agency said.

“‘Overall, our team on the ground paint a very grim picture,” UNHCR said.

Just Posted

Spring book sale this weekend in Red Deer

Red Deerians can get lost in a world of inexpensive books this… Continue reading

Central Alberta wildlife rehab facility not prepared to take orphaned bear cubs, yet

It’s been about eight years since the Medicine River Wildlife Centre was… Continue reading

Regional sewage line moving ahead despite concerns

Cost sharing among concerns of municipalities involved in Sylvan Lake-to-Red Deer sewage line

Red Deer family who lost everything in house fire begin rebuilding

Couple had moved into north-end home only two days before basement fire

Tory Leader Andrew Scheer says he doesn’t feel betrayed by Maxime Bernier

MONTREAL — Andrew Scheer says he doesn’t feel betrayed by former Tory… Continue reading

WATCH: Fine wine and food at Red Deer College

The Red Deer College Alumni Association hosted its 14th annual Fine Wine… Continue reading

Boston’s Tuukka Rask, Riley Nash step up in Game 4 win over Leafs

Bruins 3 Maple Leafs 1 TORONTO — The Boston Bruins didn’t need… Continue reading

Supreme Court ruling corks B.C. vintners’ hopes for free trade of Canadian wines

VANCOUVER — The Supreme Court of Canada ruling upholding interprovincial trade laws… Continue reading

Lance Armstrong settles $100M lawsuit with U.S. government

Disgraced cyclist reached $5-million settlement with sponsor U.S. Postal Service

Montreal couple hoping city lets them keep beloved pet pig named Babe

MONTREAL — Babe the pig spends his days sleeping, going for walks… Continue reading

WATCH: This is a story about a stoned raccoon at a fire station

An unusual pair showed up in the pre-dawn hours at Fire Station… Continue reading

Plastic makers’ credit ratings may be hit by pollution rules

Plastic packaging makers may be less credit-worthy in the future as governments… Continue reading

Black Press Media acquires two new Alaska newspapers

New Media Investment Group to acquire the Akron (OH) Beacon Journal while Black Press Media takes on daily newspapers in Juneau and Kenai Alaska

‘Dining of the future’: vegan restaurant boom fuelled by meat eaters

Foodies say Canada is in the midst of a renaissance in plant-based… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month