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Mediterranean migrants 'forced to take to sea'

Mediterranean migrants 'forced to take to sea'
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By Alasdair Sandford with Reuters, AP
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There are claims that people traffickers have been forcing migrants onto boats despite bad weather, after more dramatic rescue missions.

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Survivors of the latest African migration drama in the Mediterranean have been taken to southern Italian ports after more dramatic rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

More than 1,000 migrants were saved as several boats got into trouble, in various operations involving the Italian and Tunisian navies as well as merchant ships.

But at least 10 North Africans died when their rubber dinghy capsized in the Strait of Sicily to the north of Libya.

Survivors were initially taken to the Sicilian ports of Augusta, Pozzallo and Porto Emedocle, amid concern that vulnerable migrants are being forced to take to sea.

“Very recently, they (the migrants) have in fact said that in Libya traffickers asked them to jump on the boat although they saw that the weather conditions were really terrible, and therefore they also thought that this would have caused problems in their journey towards Italy. But the traffickers actually were armed and threatened them to jump on the boat,” said Carlotta Bellini of Save the Children Italy.

Authorities said the migrants included Syrians, Palestinians, Tunisians, Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans.

Italy’s large-scale search and rescue mission has been replaced by a smaller EU “Triton” border control force – but the country continues to rescue migrants beyond its territorial waters.

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