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Italian Navy rescues over 1,000 migrants
January 4, 2014, 5:15 pm

Italian naval authorities have stepped up their surveillance and rescue operations in the Mediterranean as desperate migrants continue to attempt crossing often dangerous waters to reach Europe.

In the past week alone, Italian helicopters have spotted hundreds of migrants trying to reach the island of Lampedusa, a vital entry point to Italy and Europe.

On Wednesday, six naval ships and a number of helicopters rescued over 200 migrants from Nigeria, Mali, Somalia, Pakistan and Eritrea.

The Italian Coast Guard on Thursday rescued over 800 migrants from Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia and Pakistan who were crammed into four small boats. Italian authorities said there were dozens of women and children among those rescued.

All of the rescued migrants this week were taken to Sicily for processing.

That so many were rescued this week marks an uptick in the number of migrants that cross the Mediterranean during winter months; traditionally, the numbers fall during the cold of winter.

Italian authorities have called on the EU for support and dealing with the influx of refugees. Brussels has urged more pan-European patrol operations in the region.

Greece, another crossing point for seaward migrants, also reported rescuing some 83 refugees this week.

Mare Nostrum

The plight of migrants crossing the Mediterranean came into focus last October when a boat carrying Eritrean refugees was shipwrecked short of Lampedusa, with at least 360 people drowning.

Italy shortly after launched Operation Mare Nostrum, pouring more resources into search and rescue operations to avert a similar crisis.

Italian authorities fear that ongoing conflict in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan and elsewhere could push more desperate families to make the trek.

Source: Agencies