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German NGO reports rescue of 52 migrants off Libya

Adnkronos International, Rome — Adnkronos International, Rome

June 12--A total 52 migrants aboard an inflatable dinghy were saved off Libya's northwest coast on Wednesday, German charity SeaWatch tweeted.

"SeaWatch 3's crew just rescued 52 people from a rubber boat in distress, about 47 miles off Zawiya, Libya," read one tweet.

"The boat was spotted this morning, at 09:53, by @PVolontaires' Colibri aircraft. We won't stop defending human life at sea," the tweet added.

Seawatch said that when it reached the stricken dinghy, no Libyan rescue vessels had arrived despite the country's "so-called" coastguard having claimed it was coordinating a rescue operation.

"We proceeded to save the migrants as international law requires. The survivors are all aboard the SeaWatch," said a further tweet.

It was not immediately clear which port the SeaWatch 3 would take the newly rescued migrants to.

Under a new Italian government security decree that came into force on Tuesday, captains and owners of ships which enter Italian territory without the permission of its authorities - including migrant rescue boats - will be fined.

SeaWatch 3 is currently the only NGO rescue boat operating in the Mediterranean and only just returned to sea after being held in Sicily by Italian authorities for three weeks for transporting 47 migrants

In a move aimed at resolving a dispute with Italy over where rescued migrants and refugees are landed, the European Union in March decided to suspend the use of ships in its Sophia mission in the Mediterranean and to rely on aerial surveillance and the Libyan coastguard to disrupt smuggling networks.

The risk of migrants and refugees becoming shipwrecked in the Mediterranean and dying at sea is now the highest it has ever been due to a lack rescue ships and the military escalation in Libya hastening departures at an alarming rate, the United Nations warned last week.

The death rate for migrants on Mediterranean boat crossings this year is more than 15 percent, according to figures from the UN migration agency the International Organisation for Migration.

A total of 1,940 people have reached Italy from North Africa since January, and almost 350 have died en route, IOM figures show.

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