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Charity workers save thousands of refugees from the Mediterranean Sea, filling a gap they say was made by the EU changing its policy.
Nonprofits helped rescue more than 2,000 refugees on the Mediterranean Sea over the weekend. Now, some of those rescue workers are calling on the European Union to do more.
At the end of 2014, Italy phased out its program to rescue migrants fleeing the Middle East aboard boats that weren't seaworthy. The EU border agency, Frontex, took its place.
But its strategy was different: Rather than send ships to the northern coast of Africa, Frontex said it would only patrol water within 30 miles of Italy's coast, far from where the rescue operations were needed.
That put stress on ships run by nongovernmental organizations and charity workers, which rely on donations and cost around $11,000 a day.
The overwhelming weekend led Doctors Without Borders to tweet criticism of the EU's policy.
But some argue the rescue operations create a so-called "pull factor," encouraging more migrants to risk the jouney.
Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri claimed NGOs operating in the Mediterranean also encouraged human traffickers. An Italian prosecutor opened an investigation to see if there was any collusion between the NGOs and human traffickers. Frontex has since distanced itself from those accusations.
Doctors Without Borders points out that, according to maritime law, if rescue missions aren't happening where they're most needed, the job would fall on other ships in the area.
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