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Italy has rescued over 16,000 illegal immigrants, says minister

Using the Italian patrol boats, the Libyan coastguard has rescued more than 16,000 illegal immigrants in the Mediterranean Sea, Italy's state television, RAI, reported today, quoting the Italian interior minister, Marco Minetti.

"The Libyan coastguard has managed to rescue more than 16,000 illegal immigrants over the past five months," Minetti said, praising the patrol boats which were handed over by Italy to the Libyan navy last May.

He noted that the number of refugees from Niger to Libya has fallen by 35 per cent.

On 15 May, Minetti visited Tripoli, during which he had overseen the handover of four Italian patrol boats to Libya's coastguard.

Speaking at a press conference during the visit which was held at Liyba's Bosta naval base, the Italian minister stressed that the delivery of the Italian patrol boats following the Libyan guards' training in Italy "was an important step on the way to control the safety of maritime borders in Libya, with the aim of ending the death of migrants in the Mediterranean."

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"The number of refugees to Italy has notably declined due to the low rate of arrivals to Libya from the Niger," Minetti pointed out.

While planning for the country's budget for the current financial year, the Italian government recently announced that it expects to spend €4.6 billion on refugees' care this year.

Over 1,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea last year as they tried to reach the coast of Europe, according the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

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