7 Feb 2014

More fugitives rescued by Italian navy

2:22 pm on 7 February 2014

The Italian navy has rescued 1123 people from inflatable boats in the space of 24 hours.

The latest migrants from North Africa were found in eight boats and a barge about 222km south-east of Lampedusa. They included 47 women and 50 children.

Navy ships and helicopters began the rescue at 7am on Thursday and continued after darkness fell.

The migrants were put aboard the San Marco, an amphibious assault ship, and are due to arrive at the port of Augusta, Sicily, on Friday morning.

Once in Italy, they will be assessed to see if they have legitimate grounds for claiming asylum. The BBC reported that nearly three out of four asylum applications in EU states were rejected in 2012.

One of the migrant boats spotted by the Italian Navy on Thursday.

One of the migrant boats spotted by the Italian Navy on Thursday. Photo: Italian Navy / AFP

Meanwhile, at least seven migrants have drowned trying to reach the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in North Africa.

Officials there said the bodies of six men and a woman were found on a beach in Morocco. They were part of a group of some 400 people who tried to enter Spanish territory on Thursday.

The Spanish news agency Efe reports all were from sub-Saharan Africa.

Some 2000 migrants landed on Italian shores last month, nearly 10 times the number recorded in January 2013.

The BBC said the true number of migrants who died attempting the crossing was unknown, but in October more than 400 people drowned in two shipwrecks near Lampedusa, the closest Italian territory to North Africa.