Migrant exodus from Libya amid warm weather

Nearly 90 percent of the 900 deaths in the Mediterranean have been recorded on the Libya-to-Italy route.

"I urgently appeal to all countries of Europe and the Mediterranean, and to all people of goodwill, to act in solidarity, supporting the humanitarian initiatives now under way to save lives", President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said.

Smugglers have increasingly resorted to packing migrants into flimsy dinghies that are unable to survive the crossing to Europe, with some being intercepted and forced back by the Libyan coastguard, others being rescued by European Union officials and aid agencies, and many sinking.

Thirteen other bodies were recovered by NGO rescue operations, including the ships of MOAS, Sea Eye, and Jugend Rettet. Doctors Without Borders called it "delusional" while even the Vatican's own Caritas charity said it was worrisome.

"It is obvious that better spring weather has encouraged smugglers to take people from their detention centres", IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle told a news briefing in Geneva.

Flavio Di Giacomo, an IOM spokesman, said the smugglers had been telling migrants to "hurry up and leave the country now" because in the next few months they would be picked...

Almost 8,300 asylum seekers were rescued from unseaworthy smugglers' boats in the Mediterranean over the Easter weekend, according to NGOs and rescue workers.

As of 2017 around 900 people died and 97 people went missing. They hailed from Syria, Egypt and Libya, as well as more than a dozen other African countries.

Aid vessels described frenzied back-to-back rescues as traffickers forced more and more boats out to sea.

The higher number of deaths at this point in 2016 is largely due to deaths on the Eastern Mediterranean route, in which 376 deaths were recorded between January and April 18, 2016, compared to only 14 so far this year. Frontex has essentially accused them of encouraging smugglers to set migrants off in increasing numbers and on increasingly flimsy vessels, since rescue is so close at hand.

Catrambone said the only question at sea is life or death. More than 181,000 came to shore in Italy last year, and arrivals this year are up about a third on the same period of 2016.

They were buried in a cemetery dedicated to migrants whose bodies are regularly washed up on the coast of Libya, which remains embroiled in a bloody civil war six years after the United Kingdom helped overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.

Vanessa Coleman

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