Mass migrant rescue operation underway in Mediterranean

Epigraph:

And what is the matter with you that you struggle not in the cause of Allah and of the weak — men, women and children — who say, ‘Our Lord, take us out of this town, whose people are oppressors, and make for us some friend from Thyself, and make for us from Thyself some helper?’ (Al Quran 4:76)

mediterranean-migrants

Updated 1:53 AM ET, Mon June 8, 2015

(CNN) Calm seas and good weather in the southern Mediterranean are prompting a wave of migrant smuggling ships to attempt the crossing from Libya to Italy, the International Organization for Migration said Sunday, putting many lives at risk.

European navies and nongovernmental organizations are struggling to locate and rescue migrants from the rickety ships, and thousands may be pulled to safety Sunday, a spokesman for the organization told CNN. “The numbers are high, and they are rising,” Federico Soda said.

The warning comes after nearly 3,500 migrants were rescued Saturday.

The HMS Bulwark, a British Royal Navy ship, has rescued more than 1,000 migrants on Sunday alone, including 10 pregnant women, a spokeswoman for the UK Defence Ministry told CNN.

It is the largest rescue operation the Bulwark has had since deploying to the Mediterranean on May 5, and the numbers are climbing as the operation is still ongoing, she said.

A spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said naval ships from Italy and Spain were also involved in the effort to rescue migrants on Sunday, along with the Italian coast guard.

The Italian coast guard has received requests for help from 14 vessels in distress, carrying an estimated 1,500 refugees and migrants, the UNHCR’s William Spindler said.

They have rescued migrants from 11 vessels, and operations to find the other three boats and rescue those on board continue.

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