Eight migrants drown as Italian coastguard attempts to rescue first sinking boat of 2018

Eight migrants drown as Italian coastguard attempts to rescue first sinking boat of 2018At least eight migrants died and 86 others were rescued Saturday from a smugglers' rubber dinghy after it starting sinking in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya, the Italian coast guard said. The Italian coast guard, which coordinates rescues in international waters off Libya's coast, said an aircraft on patrol for a European anti-smuggling operation had spotted the dinghy, which was in difficulty Saturday. All eight victims were female, the coastguard said. A spokesman said survivors told rescuers that roughly 150 migrants were aboard when the dinghy was launched from Libya's coast. Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish humanitarian group that is one of the few NGOs which still operate their own rescue ships outside Libyan waters, said some of the migrants had spent hours in the water before being saved. Hundreds of thousands of migrants have reached Italy in the last few years after being rescued in the central Mediterranean from traffickers' unseaworthy boats. Some 119,000 migrants arrived that way in Italy in 2017. The International Organization of Migration also recorded more than 3,100 deaths among migrants making the Mediterranean crossing in 2017. North African migrant routes Since last summer, the number of migrants coming across the Mediterranean has dropped after the Libyan coast guard, trained and aided by the Italian military, started more aggressively intercepting smugglers' boats shortly after they were launched. The deaths in the Mediterranean came as more than 200 sub-Saharan Africa migrants seeking to get to Europe  stormed over a high double fence between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Saturday. Mobile phone footage broadcast by Spanish media showed a group of migrants running through the streets of the city. They have since been taken to a migrant detention centre. The number of migrants to reach Spain in 2017 hit a record high of nearly 22,900, according to EU border agency Frontex, amid concerns that a new migration route is opening up.



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