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Friday 19th September 2014
Max 22°C | Min 17°C

Navy Picks Up 4,000 Migrants Near Italy

Monday, 1st September 2014 17:03

Nearly 4,000 migrants have been picked up by the Italian navy over the weekend, after they tried to reach the Italian coastline from North Africa.

Frigates, patrol boats and helicopters were involved in the operations near Sicily.

Footage filmed by the Italian coastguard and navy showed migrants being ferried from boats to waiting frigates and winched on to decks.

Italy began its £7.5m a month Mare Nostrum operation last October after 360 migrants drowned off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.

The operation was launched to rescue would-be refugees in boats and arrest traffickers.

Refugee numbers have since swelled as thousands of people have fled conflicts in Syria, Iraq and across the Middle East and Africa.

They have been boarding unsafe smugglers' boats in Libya bound for Europe.

So far, nearly 110,000 people have been rescued since January, but at least 1,889 others have died making the perilous crossing, the UN's refugee agency has said.

While Mare Nostrum is being discussed at institutional level, Italian forces involved in the operation are working hard to avoid further causalities among migrants.