Thu | Aug 24, 2017

Italian, Irish, German ships save more than 650 migrants

Published:Sunday | May 29, 2016 | 5:00 AM
Pope Francis holds a life jacket which was donated to him by a migrants' rescuer during a meeting with some 400 children yesterday.

ROME (AP):

Italian coast guard and navy ships, aided by Irish and German vessels as well as humanitarian organisations, saved 668 migrants from smugglers' boats in distress in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya yesterday.

The rescues are the latest by a multinational patrol south of Sicily that has saved thousands last week.

The Irish military said the vessel Le Roisin, deployed earlier this month in the humanitarian search and rescue mission, saved 123 migrants from a 12-metre-long (40-foot) rubber dinghy and recovered a male body.

A German ship, on patrol for migrant smugglers' boats, also was involved in what was a total of four rescue operations.

Under a European Union deal, tens of thousands of those rescued at sea and seeking asylum were supposed to be relocated to other EU nations from Italy and Greece, whose shores have received most of the migrants in recent years.

But with resentment building in some European countries about taking in migrants, the plan never really took off, and only a small percentage of those slated for relocation have actually been moved.

At the Vatican yesterday, Pope Francis told several hundred children, among them many migrants, who came from the Italian south to see him that migrants "aren't a danger but they are in danger".

The pontiff held a red life vest, given to him recently by a volunteer, and told the children it was the vest used by a Syrian girl who died while trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos. "She's in heaven; she's watching us," Francis told his young audience.