6,000 displaced persons rescued, including newborns & children, off Italy's coast

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186 displaced persons are rescued by Italy's Navy
186 displaced persons on board an Italian Navy rescue boat in March 2014 as they are given lifevests. Most of those who have left their home regions are trying to reach safety and a better life in Europe. Image: A. D’Amato/UNHCR

(WNN) United Nations, Geneva, SWITZERLAND, WESTERN EUROPE: The Italian Navy has rescued approximately 6,000 displaced persons, including infants and children, from the waters of the Mediterranean sea in the past four days, outlines the UNHCR – United Nations Refugee Agency.

Trying to find a place of safety many of those who were rescued were escaping war, conflict and persecution.

Some 40 boats that were bulging with overcrowded conditions, boarded by those who were seeking asylum from violence and hardship, were part of the Italian Navy’s rescue operation Mare Nostrum. the Mare Nostrum rescue initiative began last October (2013) after 600 died off the coast of Italy during what has been called ‘tragic shipwrecks’ of those seeking safety in Europe.

“Large numbers of women and children, including newborns and unaccompanied children, were amongst those rescued. They had set off from Zwara in Libya, and many were fleeing violence, conflict and persecution,” said Melissa Fleming UNHCR spokesperson in a press briefing on April 11, 2014 at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Those trying to reach the Italian shoreline for refuge are coming from many war-torn regions, which also includes Mali, Syria, Nigeria, Eritrea, Senegal and Gambia.

“The challenges of protecting refugees traveling irregularly by sea in search of safety, often together with people moving for other reasons, are complex. UNHCR continues to urge states to work together to rescue people at sea at the same time as looking for alternative legal channels to prevent people from having to make these dangerous journeys in the first place,” Fleming added.

Over twenty thousand people have now been rescued at sea since the Italian Navy Mare Nostrum rescue operation began last October.

“The total number of people arriving by sea in Italy this year is some 18,000 people. Almost 43,000 people arrived by sea in 2013. Syrians were the largest group with over 11,300 arrivals,” continued Fleming to the press on Monday.

Those 6,000 rescued at sea in the past four days have been brought to sea ports in Catania, Pozzallo in Sicily, Augusta, Porto Empedocle, Messina and Roccella Jonica in Calabria outlined the UNHCR.

From there those who were rescued are being brought to reception centers throughout Europe, although some facilities are overcrowded. The Mediterranean sea is known as a dangerous waterway that is also one of the busiest sea highways in the world.

The total number of people arriving by sea in Italy this year numbers approximately 18,000 people, Fleming outlined. Almost 43,000 people arrived by sea in 2013. Syrians were the largest group with over 11,300 arrivals.


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