GENEVA, April 18 Nearly 9,000 mainly African
migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean this past long
weekend, after setting out from Libya on unseaworthy boats to
try to reach southern Italy and a gateway to Europe, U.N. aid
agencies said on Tuesday.
"This was an overwhelming search and rescue operation by all
sides involved," Babar Baloch, spokesman of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news briefing.
IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle said that better spring weather
had encouraged smugglers to take migrants out of detention
centres in Libya.
At least 900 migrants have died or have gone missing while
attempting to reach Europe by sea so far this year, while 36,000
have been rescued, against 24,000 last year, Doyle said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan)