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Italian navy rescues 175 people off southern Sicily

Ship seized, 15 crew members arrested in migrant voyage

30 January, 13:22
Italian navy rescues 175 people off southern Sicily (ANSA) - Rome, January 30 - Six children were among 175 migrants rescued by the Italian navy in waters off the coast of Sicily earlier Thursday.

The migrants, reportedly from Syria, Egypt and Iraq, were treated on board by medical staff and were said to be in good physical condition except for one suffering from hypothermia.

The Italian Navy ship Fenice was alerted Wednesday night to the boat south of Capo Passero, on the southern tip of Sicily, by the ship's helicopter during a patrol operation. The Fenice ship carrying the migrants was expected to reach the port of Catania late Thursday or Friday.

Meanwhile Navy frigate Aliseo, working with Catania's anti-Mafia investigative unit seized a "mother" ship used to traffic illegal migrants, and arrested 15 crew members at the end of a complex surveillance operation. Italy has been struggling to cope with a rising number of migrants, many fleeing troubled homelands for Europe via boat, who often make Italy's southern shores their first point of arrival on the continent.

Migrant security has been stepped up since October, when several rickety boats carrying migrants wrecked off the country's coasts, killing roughly 400 people.

Italy's southern migrant centers are often overcrowded and underfunded, drawing criticism from European authorities even as the Italian government begs its neighbors for support to deal with the waves of migrants washing up on its shores.