[QODLink]
Europe

Italy rescues 2,000 migrants in 48 hours

Navy and coastguard rescue 2,128 North African refugees who were travelling in small boats off the coast of Sicily.

Last updated: 20 Mar 2014 11:37
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
The arrival of 2,128 people in two days underlines the scale of illegal migration into southern Europe [EPA]

Italian naval and coastguard vessels have rescued more than 2,000 migrants travelling in boats from North Africa in just 48 hours, according to authorities.

Wednesday's rescue came a day after some 500 people forced their way into Spain's North African enclave of Melilla, the largest number to cross the border in almost a decade.

The Italian navy said 2,128 migrants were rescued by ships operating in the Mare Nostrum taskforce off the southern coast of Sicily, including 596 picked up at sea on March 17 who were expected to arrive in the port of Augusta.

Interactive: The price of passage

Three merchant ships also took part in the rescue operation, the navy statement said.

The arrivals underline the scale of illegal migration into southern Europe. Italy has struggled for decades with a steady stream of migrants travelling in small, unsafe boats from North Africa to the tiny island of Lampedusa, midway between Tunisia and Sicily. But the problem has ballooned since the Arab Spring in 2011, the breakdown of order in Libya and civil war in Syria.

According to latest data from Frontex, the European Union's border agency, more than 20,000 people entered Europe illegally through Lampedusa and other parts of Sicily in the third quarter of 2013 alone. They accounted for almost half of all illegal border crossings into the 28-nation EU.

Italy has stepped up naval and air patrols off the coast of Sicily since hundreds of migrants drowned last year in two separate disasters near Lampedusa.

The number of arrivals is expected to rise as sailing conditions improve with the onset of spring.

 

280

Source:
Reuters
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
UNHCR says hundreds of people trapped in Yaloke town risk death if they are not evacuated to safety urgently.
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Featured
Long-standing dispute over Christian use of the word 'Allah' raises concerns about a very un-Merry Christmas.
The threat posed by ISIL has prompted thousands of young Kurds to join the PKK.
Baja California - with its own grim history of disappeared people - finds a voice in the fight against violence.
Russian feminist rockers fight system holding 700,000 - the world's largest per capita prison population after the US.
Weeks of growing protests against Muslims continue in Dresden with 15,000 hitting the streets last Monday.