Migrants Rescued: Italy's Navy Pulls 1,100 From Boats Leaving Africa

Thursday, 06 Feb 2014 03:13 PM

By Michael Mullins

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Migrants rescued by Italy's Navy on Wednesday were apparently seeking asylum, as clandestine migration from North Africa reaches record levels.

In total, more than 1,100 migrants occupying nine large rafts were rescued by the Italian Navy. All the migrants are said to be from sub-Saharan Africa, the BBC reported.

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In January, about 2,000 migrants arrived on Italian shores from North Africa, which is nearly 10 times the number recorded the prior January. In total, 42,925 migrants arrived on Italian shores in 2013, according to the government.

Over the past two decades, Italy, Greece, and the Mediterranean island of Malta have borne the brunt of migrant flows and have urged the EU to make a more robust and coordinated response, Reuters reported. The spike in migration over the past 12 months has been attributed to Syria's ongoing civil war and the continued strife in the Horn of Africa and Libya.

In early January, 233 migrants were rescued by the Italian Navy from a 33-foot boat that was in danger of sinking in the Mediterranean Sea.

However, not all attempts to reach Europe via Italy are as successful as these two.

In October, 366 Eritreans drowned in a shipwreck near the shore of the Italian island of Lampedusa, which is located halfway between Sicily and Tunisia. More than 200, mostly Syrians, died in another shipwreck a week later, Reuters reported.

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Italy subsequently announced that it would be increasing military patrols in the southern Mediterranean to try to prevent repeat shipwrecks which have drowned hundreds of African migrants.

"We intend to triple our presence, in terms of both men and means in the southern Mediterranean, for a military-humanitarian mission that has been made necessary in part by the fact that Libya is currently a 'non-state,'" Defense Minister Mario Mauro told The Daily Avvenire.

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