May 9, 2015 12:42 pm
Updated: May 9, 2015 4:35 pm

More EU nations help Italy with rescue of Libyan migrants


WATCH ABOVE: Footage of migrants arrive at Italian port after being rescued.

AUGUSTA, Italy – Ireland and France are the latest European Union nations to answer pleas to help Italy save migrant lives in the Mediterranean, while international humanitarian organizations are also helping to expand the flotilla of rescue vessels.

Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said Saturday during an appearance in northern Italy that an Irish patrol boat was arriving in the Mediterranean and that France has also expressed willingness to help.

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READ MORE: Italian Coast Guard: 3,690 migrants rescued from Mediterranean Sea in 1 day

Two German ships and a British vessel are already pitching in, after Italy appealed for help with the migrants, who arrive daily by the hundreds or by the thousands on overcrowded, unseaworthy fishing boats and dinghies setting sail from Libya, where the smugglers are based.

Hundreds of migrants saved by a vessel operated by a private organization and by one of the German ships reached port Saturday in Sicily and on the Italian mainland.

Doctors Without Borders is adding a second ship to conduct search and rescue operations. The vessel, the Bourbon Argos, carries a crew of 26, including emergency medical workers. Its first ship, the MY Phoenix, is operated jointly with another humanitarian group called Migrant Offshore Aid Station, or MOAS.

When rescuers reach migrant boats in distress, they sometimes find the migrants dead or dying aboard, after days at sea with little or no water, or too weak to stay afloat or swim if their boat leaks or overturns.

A MOAS co-founder described the rescue of more than 200 migrants, after the Phoenix brought them the Sicilian port of Augusta on Saturday.

“The boat was rocking, about 30, 40 degrees on each side,” said Christopher Catrambone. “It was any second that it would have capsized, so we were very fortunate to get to the boat in time, before these people died.”

More than 26,000 rescued migrants were brought to Italy in April alone, according to Italian government figures, as the smugglers took advantage of generally good spring weather.

Italy has been insisting fellow EU nations do more, even after rescue. Although most migrants who land in Italy hope to reach relatives in northern Europe, they are supposed to stay in shelters and other housing in Italy until their asylum applications are processed. Many politicians in Italy want EU nations to take in some of the asylum-seeking migrants.

© 2015 The Canadian Press

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