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Over 4,600 refugees rescued off Libya coast: Italy



Italy says over 4,000 stranded refugees were rescued at sea in a single day of naval operations through the Mediterranean.

The Italian Coastguard said in a statement on Wednesday that some 4,655 asylum seekers had been rescued during 30 rescue missions off the Libyan coast on Tuesday.

The statement said that the bodies of 28 refugees who had drowned were also recovered during the rescue operation.

This has brought to over 10,000 the total number of refugees rescued over the past two days.

About 6,055 migrants had already been rescued and 22 found dead on the sea route to Europe on Monday, according to Italian and Libyan officials.

The number of the people rescued on Monday is one of the highest numbers in the recent past, when countless individuals have been embarking on dangerous journeys to reach Europe in the hope of a better life.

The latest surge in new arrivals means at least 142,000 refugees have reached Italy since the start of the year, and around 3,100 have died.

Officials fear that the number of people trying to reach Italy via the sea will increase as weather conditions continue to be calm.

The coasts of Libya have turned to a launch-pad for people seeking to reach Europe. The unsafe rubber boats that carry hundreds of refugees often capsize off Libya, especially near its western coast.

Members of Proactiva Open Arms NGO evacuate a dead body on a stretcher during a rescuing operation in the Mediterranean Sea, off northern Libya, October 4, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Human traffickers have been taking advantage of the chaos gripping Libya since the 2011 revolution in the country to boost their lucrative business.

According to the UN refugee agency, some 204,000 refugees crossed the Mediterranean to Europe in the first half of 2016.

Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria. The conflicts they are fleeing are usually instigated by the very European and non-European countries they seek to finally settle in.

Meanwhile, a conference by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is set to start in the Austrian capital, Vienna, on Wednesday. The two-day OSCE Mediterranean Conference will focus on the growing trend of migration, violent extremism, radicalization and terrorism.

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