EU's Triton rescues migrants

2014-11-01 21:51
Motor boats from the Italian frigate Grecale approach a boat overcrowded with migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. (Italian Navy, AP, ho)

Motor boats from the Italian frigate Grecale approach a boat overcrowded with migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. (Italian Navy, AP, ho)

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Rome - More than 200 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean were expected to land in Italy on Saturday, the first day of a new sea patrol mission ran by the European Union.

Italy's navy said it disembarked 151 people who were picked up on Friday off Sicily's south-eastern tip in the port of Augusta. It said that the coast guard was also involved in the operations.

The ANSA news agency said a merchant ship had taken on board 59 migrants and was escorting them to Pozzallo, another Sicilian port, where it was expected to dock later on Saturday.

There were no reports of migrant rescues by the new EU mission, called Triton.

ANSA also said that police in Sicily arrested a 28-year-old man from Ghana, on charges of human trafficking. He is suspected of having served as the skipper on a dinghy that sank on Thursday.

Italian authorities managed to rescue about 90 of the passengers, while some 20 people are missing.

According to Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, more than 150 000 sea migrants have arrived on Italian shores this year. Italy has been asking for EU help in handling the influx, prompting the launch of Triton.

Co-ordinated by EU border agency Frontex and acting under Italian command, it started on Saturday with the deployment of three open sea patrol vessels, two coastal patrol vessels, two coastal patrol boats, two aircraft, and one helicopter.

Italy has decided in parallel to scale down its own maritime search-and-rescue mission Mare Nostrum, launched last year in response to two shipwrecks which claimed at least 500 lives. The decision has been criticized by human rights groups.

Read more on:    eu  |  italy  |  migrants

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