The Italian navy has said that 1,984 migrants and refugees were rescued off the Libyan coast in 11 separate operations on Thursday (December 3). The Italian coast guard, the navy, a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) boat and two boats operating under the EU's Operation Sophia all took part in the rescue of the migrants.
In the previous 10 days, only 400 migrants were picked up in the waters off Libya as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe. That represents a stunningly low number compared to the summer months, when an average of 760 people a day were rescued. It is believed that bad weather and rough sea conditions were responsible for the lull in arrivals before Thursday's sudden increase.
The UN said the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe fell by more than a third in November 2015, due also to Turkey's crackdown on traffickers in the Aegean on the route to Greece. An accord with the European Union aimed at stemming the influx of refugees resulted in Ankara conducting more naval patrols and border checks on Turkey's border.
In the last week of November, Turkish authorities detained 1,300 asylum-seekers and migrants who were poised to cross the Aegean Sea to get to Greece. Police apprehended some 750 migrants in a pre-dawn sweep in the town of Ayvacik, in Canakkale province, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency. Some 550 people, who were trying to hide in olive groves, were detained in the afternoon. The asylum-seekers were fleeing war, devastation and persecution in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. The town of Ayvacik is a main crossing point to the nearby Greek island of Lesbos, which has seen an unprecedented arrival of refugees in the past few months.
Under the new deal with the EU, Turkey will get €3bn (£2.1bn) in aid, a deal on visas and renewed talks on joining the 28-nation bloc.
The International Organization for Migration estimated in late November that nearly 860,000 migrants had landed in Europe so far this year, with more than 3,500 dying while crossing the Mediterranean in search of safety.
On Tuesday (December 1) , the UN's children's agency warned that women and children make up an increasing proportion of the migrants and refugees on the move, and currently account for more than half, up from just 27% a few months ago.