700 immigrants rescued off Sicily: official

AFP-JIJI

Nearly 700 refugees, including dozens of Eritreans, have been rescued off Sicily in five operations, as leaders grapple with the issue of illegal immigration at a European Union summit.

Patrol boats, navy vessels and a Maltese-flagged cargo vessel rescued asylum seekers from five boats over the past 24 hours, the coast guard said in a statement Friday.

The 318 migrants picked up by the navy were all packed on two boats and were later transferred onto the San March amphibious assault ship taking part in a massive search and rescue operation.

The operation was launched by the Italian government in the wake of an Oct. 3 refugee shipwreck tragedy just off the Italian island of Lampedusa in which 366 asylum seekers perished.

Some of the refugees rescued between Thursday and Friday were also Eritrean, where most of the passengers on the boat that sank came from.

More than 33,000 migrants have landed in Italy so far this year — nearly three times more than the number for last year. The most common countries of origin are Eritrea and Somalia, and now also Syria.

The mayor of Lampedusa, the island where most of the migrants land, warned European leaders of the need for an urgent rethink of immigration policies.

“Unless Europe’s approach to asylum and immigration changes, it won’t only be the migrants but the EU that drowns off Lampedusa,” Giusi Nicolini said in Brussels, where she met with European Parliament head Martin Schulz.

  • Franz Pichler

    “Illegals rescued” it should read…. So another EU smart bureaucrat meets with all know mr Schulz and says that unless the EUs policies change there’ll be no change, lol, do those people really think that a change (and by the way, what change? You already can immigrate to Europe legally) will reduce the number of illegals!? Lol of course not, they jump the people that work hard to enter a legally and contribute to European society. Let’s face it, almost all illegals coming to Europe have no education, a backward cultural background and in an information driven economy will unfortunately never make it and be forever on benefits thus helping to sink a leaking boat! Europe is open for immigration, you know, the legal one, the one that lets in people with skills that contribute and help grownL Europe! Why do EU politician not stress this! Why play in the hand of right wing parties by continually denying that things are totally out of control