International

Italian Navy Rescues Some 1,100 Migrants In Mediterranean

Migrants are seen in a boat during a rescue operation by Italian navy ship San Marco off the coast to the south of the Italian island of Sicily on Wednesday. i i

hide captionMigrants are seen in a boat during a rescue operation by Italian navy ship San Marco off the coast to the south of the Italian island of Sicily on Wednesday.

HANDOUT/Reuters/Landov
Migrants are seen in a boat during a rescue operation by Italian navy ship San Marco off the coast to the south of the Italian island of Sicily on Wednesday.

Migrants are seen in a boat during a rescue operation by Italian navy ship San Marco off the coast to the south of the Italian island of Sicily on Wednesday.

HANDOUT/Reuters/Landov

More than a thousand would-be North African migrants were rescued by the Italian navy about 120 miles southeast of the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, authorities say.

The BBC says that 1,123 people, from sub-Saharan Africa, were intercepted on Wednesday as they tried to make the passage in inflatable boats, but were intercepted by authorities. They included 47 women, four of them pregnant, and 50 children, the BBC says.

For background:

"Some 2,000 migrants landed on Italian shores last month, nearly 10 times the number recorded in January 2013."

"According to the government, last year saw 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."

"The true number of migrants who died attempting the perilous crossing is unknown, but in October more than 400 people drowned in two shipwrecks near Lampedusa, the closest Italian territory to North Africa."

Separately, The Associated Press reports that seven people drowned Thursday as they tried to evade border guards near a land-crossing into Cueta, a near the Strait of Gibraltar. Some 150 others "were driven back by border guards, prompting many to attempt to swim around the frontier fence," The Associated Press says.

The Associated Press writes:

"With two Spanish enclaves on its coast, Morocco is a magnet for immigrants from all over Africa seeking jobs in Europe."

"Every month, hundreds of immigrants attempt to force their way into Ceuta, near the city of Tetouan, and Melilla to the east using human wave tactics to scale the high fences. Rights groups have repeatedly criticized the treatment of migrants at the hands of security forces, describing beatings, arbitrary arrests, abuse and expulsions across desert borders without water."

"Morocco has an estimated 25,000 illegal immigrants on its soil and has announced a new policy to regularize their status though authorities admit that would only affect a few hundred people."

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