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Italy rescues refugees stranded at sea
January 2, 2015, 6:08 am

The Italian Navy mobilized Operation Mare Nostrum for search and rescue missions following the death of hundreds of illegal migrants at sea in October 2013 [Xinhua]

The Italian Navy mobilized Operation Mare Nostrum for search and rescue missions following the death of hundreds of illegal migrants at sea in October 2013 [Xinhua]


A boat carrying 450 illegal migrants from North Africa has been abandoned by its crew and smugglers after it ran into severe weather south of the Italian coast.

The Italian air force said it had dispatched a helicopter to assist the boat, registered under the name Ezadeen, after an Icelandic patrol boat tried but failed due to bad weather.

Italian authorities said the Ezadeen was 65kms south of Capo di Leuca located at the tip of Italy’s heel.

The helicopter is expected to help transport three doctors from the Icelandic vessel to treat any injuries on the Ezadeen.

Three days earlier, the Italian navy treated hundreds of Syrian illegal boat migrants on another vessel for hypothermia. That vessel was seized by the Italian navy and docked at Gallipoli. More than 700 mostly Syrian refugees were on board.

Concerning the Ezadeen, the Italian authorities said it appeared to have run out of power and was stranded in the Mediterranean.

“Because of the difficult weather conditions, the ship can only be reached by air. From what we know, the ship, which flies the flag of Sierra Leone, would have hundreds of migrants on board,” the Italian air force said in a statement.

Italian and Greek naval authorities have for the past several years rescued several boats full of illegal migrants and refugees.

But the sea voyage from the African north coast – usually Libya – can be dangerous and often deadly.

On May 11, 2014 a small boat transporting 200 migrants sank near southern Sicily.

Italian naval authorities were quoted as having said that rescue ships from the Mare Nostrum task force were deployed to the island of Lampedusa, a strategic entry point often used by people smugglers to gain access to Italy and Europe.

There were no reports of survivors.

A day earlier, 40 migrants drowned in a similar attempt off the Libyan coast.

In August 2014, one person was reported dead, and an unknown number of people reported still missing when their boat caught on fire and sank in international waters in the Aegean Sea

The Coast Guard was able to apprehend 180 people from other boat attempts this week.

Italy and Greece are considered entry ways for thousands of migrants from Iraq, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Eritrea and other countries escaping war and strife in their nations.

The plight of migrants crossing dangers waters came into focus in October 2013 when a boat carrying Eritrean refugees was shipwrecked short of Lampedusa, Italy in the Mediterranean with at least 360 people drowning.

The BRICS POST with inputs from agencies

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