More than 160 migrants rescued off Libyan coast disembark in Italy

The NGO SOS Mediterranee on Tuesday said the group of migrants, which included 50 minors and five pregnant women, had been found during two rescue operations “in international waters off the coast of Libya on Friday December 20”.

The first operation rescued 112 people from a rubber dinghy that had deflated, the group said.

A second operation, conducted hours later, saved 50 more migrants from a wooden boat struggling in dangerous weather conditions shortly before midnight.

The migrants disembarked at the southern port of Taranto on Monday after permission was given by the Italian authorities.

So far in 2019 almost 100,000 migrants have arrived by sea to Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta, according the UN’s refugee agency. Some 1,277 are dead or missing.

While the figures are a far cry from 2015, when over a million people made the voyage by sea, the ratio of deaths to arrivals has risen sharply.

Migrants arriving in Europe have said they risked the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean during the winter months to escape horrific conditions in Libya.

Violent clashes, which began earlier this year between forces loyal to Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and the UN-backed government in the Libyan capital, Tripoli have spilled over to areas where migrant centres are located.

Last week, Pope Francis said the detention centres in Libya were “places of torture and despicable slavery”.

The EU’s foreign policy arm called on the two sides to “cease military action and resume political dialogue”.

“There is no military solution to the crisis in Libya,” a spokesperson for the European External Action Service said on Monday.

“The only way to settle it must be a political one, negotiated on the basis of the proposals recently put forward by the United Nations.”