Image Caption: Migrants, part of a group intercepted aboard a dinghy off the coast in the Mediterranean Sea, rest after arriving on a rescue boat at the Port of Malaga, Spain on December 7, 2017. (Reuters)
MADRID: Spain’s maritime rescue service said it has saved 104 migrants trying to make the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea to Europe from North Africa.
The service said its rescue craft Guardamar Concepcion Arenal intercepted two boats carrying 53 and 22 migrants each overnight and early Sunday in the Strait of Gibraltar. The same rescue vessel also took on board another 25 migrants that a Civil Guard patrol craft had picked up at sea.
Another rescue craft, the Salvamar Denebola, later spotted a tiny rubber boat carrying four more migrants that it took to shore.
Separately, sources said Libya’s UN-backed government agreed with Italy on Saturday to establish a joint operations room for tackling migrant smugglers and traffickers to curb migrant flows toward Europe.
Libya is the main gateway for migrants trying to cross to Europe by sea, though numbers have dropped sharply since July as Libyan factions and authorities have begun to block departures under Italian pressure. More than 600,000 have made the journey over the past four years.
The agreement to set up the operations room was announced after a meeting in Tripoli between the head of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez Seraj, Libyan Interior Minister Aref Khodja, and his Italian counterpart Marco Minniti.
A statement from Seraj’s office said the center would consist of “representatives from the coast guard, the illegal migration department, the Libyan attorney general and the intelligence services, along with their Italian counterparts.”
No details were given on the location of the center and how it would operate. In the past, migrant smugglers have worked with impunity in western Libya, where the GNA has little authority over armed groups that have real power on the ground.