70 migrants jump overboard and swim away from Spanish NGO rescue ship as they try to reach Italy

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Seventy migrants jumped overboard today and swam away from the Spanish NGO ship that had rescued them as they tried to reach Italy.

They are part of a group of 270 people who have been stranded for days off the coast of the Sicilian city of Palermo on the Spanish rescue vessel Open Arms.

The desperate swimmers became frustrated by the diplomatic wranglings over who should take custody of them and so headed for shore in their life jackets, the local Giornale di Sicilia reported. 

Open Arms rescued three separate groups in the Mediterranean between September 8 and 10. The crew are still waiting for instructions on where the migrants will be allowed to disembark.

Desperate migrants jumped from the Spanish rescue vessel Open Arms on Thursday in an attempt to swim to the Sicilian City of Palermo

Desperate migrants jumped from the Spanish rescue vessel Open Arms on Thursday in an attempt to swim to the Sicilian City of Palermo

The Sicilian coast can be seen in the background as migrants wearing orange life jackets attempt to swim to shore

The Sicilian coast can be seen in the background as migrants wearing orange life jackets attempt to swim to shore

The Italian coastguard has ferried two pregnant women and one of their husbands onto dry land in recent days, while the rest remain on board. 

So far this year 47,379 migrants have arrived by sea into Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta.

Another 4,837 have made the crossing into Greece and Spain via land.

The United Nations estimates that around 500 migrants have died or gone missing attempting to make the crossing in 2020. 

The figures are similar to the last few years but a sharp drop off from the peak of the crisis in 2015 when more than a million arrived through the Mediterranean. An estimated 3,771 died or went missing that year.

This year the majority of the migrants (20.3 percent) have come from Tunisia, followed by Algeria (12.7 percent), Bangladesh (8.1 percent), Afghanistan (7.5 percent) and Syria (7.3 percent). 

Data from the United Nations shows that so far this year 47,379 migrants have arrived by sea into Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta

Data from the United Nations shows that so far this year 47,379 migrants have arrived by sea into Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta

After being for years the primary route into Europe for hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and other migrants, Italy has seen a drop in arrivals after a crackdown on smuggling networks.

However, numbers have picked up again in 2020 although Rome banned rescue ships from docking in its ports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sometimes those saved at sea are transferred to ferries and quarantined there, off the Italian coast.

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