Italy rescues 150,000 migrants at sea

Through November 30, 2014, a total of 163,368 migrants have been rescued at sea this year, data released by Italy’s Ministry of the Interior show.

That is an increase of 9,923 during the most recent month, which is only about a third of September’s 26,107 arrivals.

“There were many days of bad weather,” explained International Organization for Migration (IOM) Italy Chief of Mission Federico Soda, who noted that despite ever rougher winter sea conditions, migrant smugglers continue to find passengers seeking safety in Europe.

In November, Syrians comprised the largest nationality arriving in Italy – nearly 3,000 or a third of the total. Eritreans dropped to just over 300 arrivals,

“We have noticed that lately Syrians are mostly arriving on boats leaving from Turkey, while arrivals from Libya are mainly composed by Sub-Saharans,” said Soda. “At this stage we cannot say if this could be a new trend, but we will investigate this.”

For the year, Syrians are also the most numerous contingent, with just under 40,000 arrivals since January 1, followed by Eritreans, with just over 34,000.

Bangladeshis arriving by sea so far in 2014 total 4,386, compared to just 297 in 2013. Palestinians, at 5,713 arrivals, are nearly six times 2013’s total, when 1,043 arrived by sea.

IOM’s mission in Italy also reported last week that staffers were able to meet and provide assistance to some of the 391 migrants arriving on Wednesday (10/12) in the Sicilian port of Augusta. Witnesses said they were travelling on a large fishing boat that left Mersin, Turkey on November 29th. The main nationalities were Syrians and Palestinians.

For the first time, IOM staff met, among the migrants, refugees fleeing Kobane, the besieged city in Syria’s Kurdish highlands.

Soda of IOM Italy reports prices that smugglers are charging Syrians for sea crossings appear to be rising, although large groups may enjoy a discount.

“Prices from Turkey change, depending on the size of the boat,” he said. “If the migrants number more than 500, the price is USD 4,500 dollars each. If less than 500, then it may climb to USD 6,000 per passenger.”

IOM noted that with these latest reports, migrant deaths along sea routes from Africa in 2014 now top 3,500, most of those in the Mediterranean. This is about six times last year’s total.

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