The Italian Navy rescued 1,000 migrants in a single day

More migrants are attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing from Libya after the eastern overland route through Greece became a much harder option.

by Alberto Riva
Jul 19 2016, 3:31pm

A handout image from the Italian Navy dated October 2015 shows migrants after being rescued, on the deck of a Navy vessel. (Photo via EPA)

The Italian Navy has rescued a thousand migrants in a single day in the Mediterranean, with three different ships. Though not unprecedented — rescues of hundreds of people in a day are commonplace in the waters south of Sicily — this illustrates how much migrant routes are switching from the eastern pathway through Greece to the more dangerous, but less patrolled, southern corridor through Libya and Italy.

A crackdown by the European Union on the overland route via Eastern Europe, which migrants take after a quick sea crossing of just a few miles from Turkey to Greek islands just off the Turkish coast, has pushed people to try getting into Europe from North Africa instead. That sea crossing is far longer, at 200 miles (350 km) at its shortest, through open waters with powerful currents.

The Italian Navy said on its Twitter feed on Tuesday that it had carried out three different rescues. First, the frigate Grecale rescued 120 people from a rubber dinghy; then another frigate, the Margottini, saved 450 people from four other dinghies; and lastly the patrol vessel Borsini rescued 400 people from a boat and around 120 from a dinghy.

The Navy also published on its YouTube channel footage of one of the rescues, showing people being transferred aboard a ship.

According to data from the Italian Interior Ministry reported by news agency ANSA, in the first three months of the year or 58 percent more migrants landed on Italian coasts, or were rescued by the Navy or Coast Guard and then taken ashore, than in the same period of 2015. Arrivals are far more frequent in the summer, when the calmer, warmer Mediterranean is often far easier to cross than in winter.