Italy coordinates rescue of almost 1,700 migrants over the weekend as balmy spring weather and improved sea conditions see new wave of refugees. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Italian coast guards helped two merchant ships to bring 522 migrants safely to Porto Empedocle, on Sicily's southwest coast, on Sunday (April 12), after rescuing them at sea in the Strait of Sicily. The Maersk Regensburg carried 429 people, including 94 women and 10 minors and the City of Hamburg transported a further 93 people including 20 women. An Italian Financial Guard boat helped the coast guard bring everyone to the quayside where emergency workers were standing by to provide assistance. Refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa regularly risk the hazardous journey across the Mediterranean, often between Libya and Sicily, to reach the European Union. Around 3,500 are estimated to have drowned last year when more than 170,000 migrants managed to reach Italy by sea. Balmy spring weather and improved sea conditions over the weekend saw a new wave of refugees, mainly from Syria and Eritrea, trying to reach Europe. Italian and merchant ships rescued around 1,000 migrants from three overcrowded skiffs near the coast of Libya and found one dead body, on Friday (April 10) and a further 680 people were rescued in different operations on Saturday (April 11). The migrants landing in Porto Empedocle set out from Libya on Friday and when they sent out a distress call by satellite phone and merchant ships in the area were directed towards the boats in distress to rescue them. At least 480 migrants lost their lives in the Mediterranean during the first three months of this year, compared with fewer than 50 fatalities during the same period last year, according to the International Organization for Migration. International human rights groups have said this year's higher death toll is at least partly due to Italy's decision to end its "Mare Nostrum" search and rescue mission last year, replacing it with a more limited European Union border control mission called Triton.