People smugglers in the Mediterranean, some 60 nautical miles from Libya, fired shots to recover a wooden boat on Monday from which migrants had been rescued shortly before. Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Týr, which had participated in the rescue operation, was in the area when the shots were fired.
Týr, already carrying 342 migrants from an earlier rescue operation, was called to assist an Italian tugboat in the rescue of the migrants in the wooden boat, Frontex reports.
This is the second time this year that armed smugglers took back a vessel used to transport migrants following a rescue operation in the Central Mediterranean.
“This is a sign that smugglers in Libya are running short of boats and are more willing to use weapons to recover those used to transport the migrants,” said Fabrice Leggeri, Frontex Executive Director.
Týr arrived in Taranto, Italy, this morning with the migrants rescued on Monday. According to RÚV, there were many children onboard and several of the women were pregnant.
Týr and all the other vessels and aircraft taking part in the Frontex-coordinated Joint Operation Triton have been continuously assisting the Italian authorities in the rescue of migrants. RÚV reports that more than 8,000 people have been rescued since Friday.
It is feared that 400 migrants may have drowned when a vessel went down off the coast of Libya on Monday, shortly after the shooting.
The Italian Coast Guard managed to save 144 people from the ocean but the survivors reported that as many as 550 people were onboard the boat, Vísir reports.
According to the BBC, more than 500 people have perished in the Mediterranean so far this year, which is 30 times more people than in the same period last year.
More than 280,000 people arrived illegally in the European Union last year, 170,000 of whom arrived in Italy. As many as 3,500 people died when attempting to cross the Mediterranean, many of whom were escaping Syria and Eritrea.