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MSF says rescued over 11,000 migrants in Med since May

A Syrian migrant woman carries her child away upon their arrival by a dinghy at the southeastern Greek island of Kos, Greece, early Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

MADRID: Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) said Thursday it has rescued over 11,000 migrants from the Mediterranean since the start of May.

The group, which operates three rescue boats off the coast of Libya, also urged the European Union to boost funding for Greece and Italy to help both countries tackle an influx of migrants.

Migrants in the two nations were being held in sometimes "appalling conditions," Paula Farias, the Spanish head of the group's Mediterranean operations, told AFP.

The humanitarian aid organization, best-known for its projects in war-torn regions, began rescue patrols of the Mediterranean on May 3 with a boat it operates jointly with Malta's privately-funded Migrant Offshore Aid Station.

It later added two other boats to its migrant rescue effort.

"We have rescued 11,456 migrants since we started operations," said Farias.

"We do it because no one is doing it after the Mare Nostrum operation was suspended and replaced by Triton," she added.

In October 2013, Italy launched a vast search-and-rescue operation called Mare Nostrum (Latin for "Our Sea") after over 300 migrants died near the Italian island of Lampedusa.

But the following year the operation was wound down and the European Union border agency Frontex set up a much more modest project called Triton.

Farias said Triton was "much smaller than Mare Nostrum" and had a very different mandate: "not of rescuing people but of border control," she said.

"In fact, we are doing what MSF has always done: acting in the face of a humanitarian crisis.

"The people we are rescuing at sea are the people we are helping in their country of origin ... who come from nations at war: Syrians, Yemenis, Eritreans," she said.

MSF wants the European Union to relaunch an operation similar to Mare Nostrum.

 

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