July 22, 2011 By

More Than 1,100 Asylum Seekers Rescued Off Italian Coast

aMore than thousand one hundred migrants were rescued by Italian Navy from inflatable boats last Wednesday, February 5, during their attempts to reach the Italian coast from the north of Africa. The asylum seekers in nine overcrowded rafts and dinghies were rescued by the navy near Lampedusa, Italy.  They are believed to be from sub-Saharan Africa and consisted of forty seven women, four of them pregnant, and fifty children, the navy said in a statement.

Spain’s El Pais newspaper reported it as “the first attempt at a mass border crossing this year”. The crafts were spotted 120 miles south of Sicily on Wednesday by Italian military helicopters attached to navy ships. Rescue operations commenced at 08:00 (07:00 GMT), by the Navy ships and helicopters continuing the operations even after darkness .The migrants were provided life jackets and pulled aboard an amphibious assault ship, the San Marco. They arrived at the Sicilian port of Augusta on Friday morning.

At least seven of them were drowned in the attempts to reach the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in North Africa. According to the government reports, there was an “incessant and massive influx of migrants” with a total of 42,925 arrivals by sea, or more than three times as many as in 2012. On entering Italy, the migrants would be checked for valid grounds for claiming asylum and assessed if they would face difficulties if sent back to their country of origin. In October last year, more than four hundred Eritreans lost their lives in two ship wrecks near Lampedusa, the closest Italian territory to North Africa. It took several days for the navy and the police to recover the bodies which were trapped inside the upturned vessel. The bodies of five people believed to have been African migrants were found in the Nador area of Morocco’s northern coast, near Melilla, on Sunday.

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