Italian navy rescues over 1 000 migrants

2014-07-17 20:19
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 - Italy's navy on Thursday said it had rescued more than 1 000 migrants from multiple boats intercepted crossing the Mediterranean over the past 24 hours, as smugglers take advantage of calm summer seas.

The rescues came as Libya's navy said it had retrieved the bodies of three would-be migrants and rescued almost 100 others after their boat sank off its coast.

"Over 1 000 migrants have been rescued," the Italian navy said in a statement. It said 764 migrants were rescued from a number of boats overnight - and then 427 on two more boats intercepted on Thursday.

The rescues were part of Rome's massive ongoing search and rescue mission, "Mare Nostrum" (Our Sea), after two shipwrecks in October in which over 400 migrants drowned.

Italy estimates around 100 000 migrants will have landed on its shores by the end of the year - around the same number that arrived in 2011 in the wake of turmoil triggered by the Arab Spring revolutions in North Africa.

The navy said dozens of women and children were among the latest arrivals and released videos of the migrants wrapped in thermal blankets being transferred onto warships where they were checked by medical staff.

Many of the migrants come from Eritrea, currently under investigation by the UN Human Rights Council for alleged abuses including extra-judicial executions, torture and forced military conscription that can last decades.

The migrants rescued by the navy are usually taken to temporary centres in Sicily - all already full. Many try to avoid registering asylum requests in Italy and make their way to other parts of Europe.

Read more on:    italy  |  eritrea  |  migrants
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