Hundreds of migrants rescued from people traffickers in Mediterranean
Naval vessels from Italy and Ireland rescued hundreds of migrants from smuggler boats in the Mediterranean on Saturday as ships from several countries, including Britain, coped with waves of people setting sail from Libya in human trafficking operations, The Guardian reported.
An Italian ship, Driade, rescued 560 migrants, including women and children, in an hours-long operation after a smuggler's boat ran into problems, the navy said.
An Irish vessel, LÉ Eithne, rescued 310 people, including 39 children, who were on a barge about 30 miles (50km) north of the Libyan coast, the Irish Defence Forces said. Eithne had already rescued 113 people on Friday.
Among ships charged with rescue duties was a British warship, HMS Bulwark, which was travelling towards the area to help a number of migrant boats during the search and rescue mission, the Ministry of Defence said. Two British helicopters helped pinpoint migrant boats in distress.
Italy has pressed European partners to do more to help it rescue and shelter masses of migrants fleeing poverty, persecution and conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Last year, Italy brought 170,000 rescued migrants to Italian ports.
Tens of thousands of migrants have already arrived in Italy this year, with many rescued by vessels from Ireland, Malta, Britain and elsewhere. Italy's coastguard frequently sends nearby cargo ships to the rescue. Humanitarian organisations also help with rescues at sea, which often occur when smugglers dispatch a dozen or more boats when seas are calm.
Earlier on Saturday, police in Sicily detained a suspected migrant smuggler who they said had tried a new tactic of putting only a few passengers aboard a small boat in a bid to land undetected on Italian shores.
Ragusa police said a Tunisian man had been detained on suspicion of smuggling after 12 fellow Tunisians aboard a wooden boat told authorities he had promised to sail them to an isolated beach near Trapani, western Sicily, at night so they could slip away undetected. Police said the suspect had bungled the route and was spotted by an Italian naval vessel.
Separately, a Gambian skipper suspected of smuggling 116 African migrants was detained by Italian police.