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Italy finds 7 migrants’ bodies, saves 484
May 15, 2017
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ROME: Rescuers saved 484 migrants from boats in the Mediterranean late on Saturday and found the bodies of seven men who had died in the attempt to get to Europe, Italy’s coast guard said.

More than 45,000 people have reached Italy by boat from North Africa this year, a more than 40 per cent increase on the same period of 2016, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says.

The new deaths add to a toll of 1,222 on the route as of May 10, compared with 966 by the same date last year, according to IOM calculations.

The migrants were rescued from four separate rubber boats by the Italian coast guard and navy, an aid group and two private vessels, the coast guard said in a statement.

The coast guard gave no details of the migrants’ origins, but most arriving in Italy are originally from Sub-Saharan Africa or Bangladesh, and pay Libya-based smugglers to organise their passage.

A senior official in a United Nations-backed Libyan government in Tripoli said on Sunday his administration was ready to create a new guard to patrol the country’s chaotic southern border, but it would only be possible to secure the frontier if other countries helped.

“If we don’t resolve Southern Libya’s problems, we will not resolve the migrant issue,” Abdulsalam Kajman, vice president in the UN-backed government headed by Fayez Seraj, told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

“The difficult economic situation in that region pushes lots of young people to work for the traffickers,” Kajman said, adding Italy had said it was willing to train the new guard.

Libya primarily needs administrative and logistical help, he added, saying Turkey had donated 20 tonnes of medicine but now that needed to be taken to southern Libya and distributed.

“(Italian Interior Minister Marco) Minniti has told us Italy is ready to dispatch mobile hospitals, but we need other countries and the European Union to lend a hand too,” he said.

Meanwhile, a charity auction selling off “love locks” from Paris bridges to raise money for refugees on Saturday brought in over $270,000, though the event was briefly interrupted by protests from far-right nationalists.

For years tourists inscribed their initials on padlocks and hooked them to the railings of bridges, most famously the Pont des Arts near the Louvre, throwing the key into the River Seine to express their undying devotion.

But officials cracked down on the practice and started removing the locks in 2015 after one section of the Pont des Arts collapsed under the weight of thousands of locks.

Hundreds of people took part in the auction at Credit Municipal de Paris in which 150 bunches of the locks − mounted on displays of wood or recycled paving stones, or hanging from acrylic stands − went under the hammer.

Fifteen sections of the original Pont des Arts railings mounted on wood were also auctioned.

Most of the lots had been expected to go for 150 to 200 euros each ($165-$220) but one set of locks fastened to a replica of the Eiffel Tower mounted on a display of recycled paving stone − called the “French Lover” − sold for 2,400 euros.

Another display with 22 locks went for 1,200 euros, one with 17 for 1,000.

But the most expensive piece − a section of the Pont des Arts railing that weighed 470 kilogrammes (1,000 pounds) − sold for 17,000 euros.

Other sections of the bridge went for between 3,500 and 12,000 euros.

The auction raised a total of 249,610 euros ($273,000), which will go to three associations helping to accommodate the influx of migrants into the city: Solipam, the Salvation Army and Emmaus Solidarite.

Agence France-Presse

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