VATICAN CITY : The Latest on immigration into Europe Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service says it has picked up 447 people who were trying to cross to the Mediterranean Sea from northern Africa.
The service said it rescued 257 migrants from 20 boats Sunday in the Strait of Gibraltar, the closest stretch of water between African and European shores. Another 190 were taken from four boats in the Alboran Sea.
On Saturday, the Spanish rescue service took 329 people off vessels crowded with migrant passengers. The number of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Spain this year has surpassed arrivals in Italy.
According to the International Organization for Migration, a UN agency, over 18,000 people reached Spain by sea from January until mid-July.
A Spanish rescue group says it has filed a lawsuit in Spanish courts against the captain of a cargo ship and the captain the Libyan coast guard for not rescuing three migrants from a shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea.
Proactiva Open Arms director Oscar Camps says the lawsuit accuses both the Libyan coast guard and the Panamanian cargo ship Triades of failing to rescue two women and a small boy from a migrant boat 80 nautical miles off the coast of Libya on July 17.
Open Arms later found and rescued them, but only one woman was still alive. The woman and the two bodies were brought to the Spanish island of Mallorca on Saturday.
Camps said the lawsuit was signed by his crew and former NBA player Marc Gasol who was accompanying the rescue mission on the Mediterranean.
Libya’s coast guard says it has intercepted 40 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, near its shores, bound for Europe.
Coast guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim says a boat carrying 31 men, eight women and a child was stopped on Saturday off the coast of the western city of Zuwara. He said Sunday that the migrants — who are from Morocco, Egypt, Syria and Nigeria, were taken to a naval base in Tripoli.
Libya has emerged as a major transit point to Europe for people fleeing poverty and war in Africa and the Mideast, as human traffickers take advantage of the country’s lawlessness.
Libyan authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of migrants with the help of training and money from European nations. Aid workers, however, say migrants who are returned to Libya often risk facing beatings, rape or slavery.
Pope Francis has lamented the latest migrant deaths in shipwrecks of smugglers’ boats and entreated nations to act swiftly to prevent more tragedies.
Francis in his traditional Sunday appearance to faithful in St. Peter’s Square expressed sorrow over recent deaths in the Mediterranean Sea and assured victims’ loved ones of his prayers.
He called on “the international community to act decisively and quickly so similar tragedies aren’t repeated” and said the “safety, respect of rights and the dignity of all must be guaranteed.”
Far fewer migrants have arrived in Italy this year compared to the same period in 2017, but U.N. refugee officials say recent crossings have been deadlier.
With Italy’s new populist government and Malta not allowing aid groups’ boats to dock, rescued migrants lately have been stranded at sea for days.