Over 1 000 rescued off Italy’s shores

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iol pic wld italy-immigrants-rescue AFP In this handout picture immigrants stand on a boat during a rescue operation off the coast of Sicily on October 30, 2013. Picture: MARINA MILITARE

Rome -

Italian authorities said on Wednesday that they rescued over 1 000 migrants from the southern Mediterranean, including one who had died during the perilous sea journey from North Africa.

The fatality was due to be taken to Pozzallo, a port on Sicily's south-eastern tip, along with about 300 other migrants.

About 300 more were headed for Catania, while 468 landed in Porto Empedocle, another Sicilian town, overnight.

Following two shipwrecks in October which killed over 400 people, Italy has launched sea patrol missions to prevent more fatalities.

Last month, a government official admitted that by making sea crossings less dangerous, the patrols encouraged migration inflows.

Close to 30 000 sea migrants are estimated to have arrived in Italy since January 1, a sharp increase from last year. Many are refugees from Syria, and Italian authorities say they are running out of reception facilities for them.

“In Italy we have no room even for one more person,” Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right Northern League party, said during a visit to a prison-like centre in Rome for people waiting to be deported.

He claimed migrants from Africa could spread the Ebola virus.

The Northern League wants to stop migrant rescues at sea.

The government has rejected those calls, but has complained that boat patrols are expensive, and has pleaded for more financial help from the European Union. - Sapa-dpa


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