EU urged to save more migrants at sea, not patrol "make-believe border"
* Nearly 9,000 migrants rescued over Easter weekend
* Arrivals have surged about a third in 2017
* Some 850 died trying to reach Italy this year
By Steve Scherer
ROME, April 18 (Reuters) - EU patrol vessels in the Mediterranean are putting lives at risk by operating too far from the Libyan coast where migrants are embarking on the perilous voyage to Europe, the head of a rescue charity said on Tuesday.
Growing numbers of migrants are attempting the crossing in flimsy, overcrowded boats as the spring weather improves. Nearly 9,000, mostly Africans, were rescued over the long Easter weekend, U.N. aid agencies said.
"Europe needs to rescue people because it cannot allow them to die at its own back door," said Chris Catrambone, an American businessman who co-founded the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), with his Italian wife Regina in 2014.
He was speaking by telephone from the MOAS rescue vessel Phoenix, which after a frantic weekend's activity was heading slowly towards Sicily with 463 migrants on board, including 170 women and children, and seven dead bodies recovered from the sea.
The crossing from Libya to Italy is now the main migrant route into Europe. More than 181,000 came to shore in Italy last year, and arrivals this year are up about a third on the same period of 2016. Continued...