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stranded at sea

Italian Coast Guard to escort 1200 migrants stranded in the Mediterranean Sea

The Italian Coast Guard has begun escorting two ships holding 1,200 migrants stranded in the Mediterranean Sea to Italy, two major operations "in a region that has seen migrant arrivals spike in the past year," CNN says.

"Due to the prohibitive sea conditions, the Peluso ship, the Diciotti ship and the Coast Guard patrol boats are escorting the two units, in difficulty since yesterday, with migrants on board," the Coast Guard said on Twitter. "The ships, carrying 400 and 800 migrants, got into trouble in rough seas on Monday."

The boats were traveling along the route between Italy and Malta, "that NGOs have warned is perilously dangerous," CNN adds. The latter ship, traveling from Tobruk, Libya, had run out of fuel and was at risk of capsizing, per Alarm Phone, an independent migrant helpline. There are also people on board in need of medical assistance. 

There has been a steep uptick of migrant arrivals in Italy compared to a year ago, BBC News said, "despite efforts by the right-wing coalition government to clamp down on irregular migration." Italy's Interior Ministry reported over 28,000 migrants have arrived in the country so far this year, "a significant surge compared to recent years," CNN summarized. The number of migrants seeking refuge in Italy is the highest in the country since 2017, per data recorded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 

The coast guard is escorting the boats en route to Italy because it is "safer" than trying to rescue the people on board amid inclement weather, Felix Weiss, a spokesperson for Sea-Watch International, a German organization that runs search and rescue operations, told CNN. Yesterday the organization tweeted that the Maltese Government ordered two nearby merchant vessels not to help with rescue efforts. "Instead," BBC reported, "one of the ships had been allowed to supply it with fuel and water."