'Unprecedented' migrant situation in the Mediterranean

A charity that rescues migrants has described the situation this weekend as "unprecedented" after going to the aid of people aboard nine boats in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) said the seven rubber and two wooden vessels contained an estimated 1,500-1,800 men, women and children.

It took 453 people on board its own ship, the Phoenix, while MOAS crew members supervised more than 1,000 others on "unseaworthy" vessels into the night, providing basic provisions and life jackets.

MOAS said the situation became more "delicate" as weather conditions deteriorated after dark.

Off the Libyan coast, the bodies of seven migrants, including a small boy, were found.

In the central Mediterranean, MOAS said there had been 2,074 rescues conducted by "various search-and-rescue (SAR) assets on Friday, including 134 rescued by the Phoenix".

That meant the Easter weekend was "set to be the latest marker in the record-breaking escalation of this on-going humanitarian crisis at sea".

MOAS said it had been "a 24 hours marathon of continuous rescue operations".

The charity's founder, Christopher Catrambone, said: "Nobody has ever seen anything like what we are witnessing this weekend.

"It is a miracle that we have managed to rescue everyone with no casualties today.

"We are still conducting operations with a new boat contact spotted early this morning.

"The professional conduct and tireless efforts of our crew are to thank for the many lives saved today."

MOAS co-founder and director Regina Catrambone called on European governments "to act so that people, such as those rescued by us today, do not die".

German NGO Jugend Rettet said 3,000 migrants had been rescued by the Italian coastguard and other boats off the Libyan coast on Saturday.

The organisation said good weather had helped to increase the numbers.

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