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Italy rescues 1,200 migrants including children, women

Navy, Coast Guard vessels used to pluck migrants from seas

18 March, 20:33
Italy rescues 1,200 migrants including children, women (ANSA) - Rome, March 18 - As many as 25 children and 50 women were on one of the 13 boats packed with about 1,200 migrants who were rescued from the seas off Sicily Tuesday by Italian Navy and Coast Guard.

Sources said that the group of migrant vessels included two boats with women and children and numerous rescue vessels were brought in to help the migrants.

Tens of thousands of migrants arrive in Italy from North Africa every year and many others die attempting the crossing in often rickety vessels. Boat arrivals in Italy more than tripled last year from the previous year, fuelled by the conflict in Syria and strife in the Horn of Africa.

In October, around 400 people died in two separate migrant-boat disasters near the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, which is often the migrants' first port of call. Following that incident and the public outcry, later that month the Italian government launched Operation Mare Nostrum, which makes use of amphibious ships, unmanned drones and helicopters with infrared equipment in its search and rescue missions.

Every year for the past 15, an average of 40,000 undocumented immigrants have disembarked on European shores and the mortality rate has increased, a report by the Florence-based European University Institute said in December.