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Defense min. praises Italian efforts to save migrants at sea

'But Europe must take action'

22 January, 16:52
Defense min. praises Italian efforts to save migrants at sea (ANSA) - Augusta, January 22 - Italian Defense Minister Mario Mauro said Wednesday that a major search-and-rescue operation for migrants at sea was proving a success.

Known as Mare Nostrum, the operation was launched by the Italian government in October last year after several rafts carrying migrants shipwrecked off the country's coasts, resulting in roughly 400 deaths. The operation includes amphibious ships, unmanned drones and helicopters with infrared equipment.

"Mare Nostrum is the response to an enormous problem," he said. "It means that Italy is taking on its responsibilities".

He cautioned, though, that "if we want to avoid more deaths at sea, Europe must address the issue through concrete measures".

European Union leaders agreed in late October on new, collective measures to cope with Italy's migrant crisis, but southern European countries most heavily exposed to the emergency situation have called for other EU members to do more.

The minister was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting at the Italian navy base in Augusta, on the island of Sicily.