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Over 1,000 migrants rescued from rough seas by Italian coastguard

Italian coastguards launched two major rescue operations after three boats capsized in rough seas off Calabria on Saturday. More than 1,000 migrants were brought ashore.

Over 200 migrants saved off Italy’s Lampedusa island

Italy’s Coast Guard reported on Friday it rescued 211 migrants off the island of Lampedusa, saving them from a ship struggling in rough seas.

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A coastguard vessel transported 584 people to Reggio Calabria, while another escorted a crowded fishing boat carrying 487 migrants into the port of Crotone, which is close to the site of a shipwreck that took place on February 26 and claimed at least 74 lives.

According to local authorities, more than 200 migrants have been apprehended off the coast of Sicily and will be transported to Catania.

While the country’s conservative administration tries to control the influx of migrants, more than 4,000 people have arrived in Italy since Wednesday, compared to roughly 1,300 for the entirety of March last year.

On Friday, the coastguard sent out eight boats on various rescue missions, and a naval patrol boat was also requested to prevent a repetition of last month’s catastrophe, when a migrant ship broke apart just off the coast of Calabria.

On Saturday, the body of a little girl was discovered, raising the death toll to 74. Seventy-nine individuals escaped the shipwreck, however, around 30 remain missing and presumed dead.

Tighter laws on human trafficking

Authorities are looking into whether the Italian government could have done more to prevent the accident. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has rejected the notion, blaming human traffickers entirely.

Her government announced harsher prison sentences for human traffickers on Thursday and vowed to develop more options for lawful migration. It cracked down on charity rescue boats late last year, accusing them of functioning as a taxi service for migrants. This action has resulted in a significant fall in the number of rescue ships patrolling the waters near North Africa, where most of the migrants set sail.

However, departures have increased substantially, with over 17,000 migrants arriving in Italy by boat so far this year, compared to 6,000 in the same period in 2022.

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