Nearly 700 refugees rescued off the coast of Sicily

first_imgNEARLY 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 coastguard said in a statement today.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 a 3 October 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.Rome protestThe statement from Italy’s navy came as Eritrean refugees staged a small rally outside the Italian parliament following shipwreck tragedy earlier this month in which 366 migrants — most of them fleeing Eritrea — drowned.Protesters called for more rights for migrants in Italy and railed against the regime of President Issaias Afeworki, who has ruled Eritrea with an iron grip since independence in 1993.“The only person responsible for the Lampedusa tragedy is the regime of Afeworki,” read a T-shirt worn by one of the activists at the protest. “Enough fear, enough dictatorship,” they chanted.© – AFPRead: Malta refuses entry to 102 rescued refugees (including four pregnant women and a baby) >last_img

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Comments