Skip to main content

Italian coast guards rescue 700 migrants as EU leaders promise action

By Laura Smith-Spark and Hada Messia, CNN
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sun October 27, 2013
An Italian Coast Guard boat carries rescued migrants into the port of Lampedusa on Thursday, October 3. According to the nation's coast guard, a boat carrying as many as 500 people capsized and caught fire off the Italian island of Lampedusa. An Italian Coast Guard boat carries rescued migrants into the port of Lampedusa on Thursday, October 3. According to the nation's coast guard, a boat carrying as many as 500 people capsized and caught fire off the Italian island of Lampedusa.
HIDE CAPTION
Shipwreck off Italy's Lampedusa island
Shipwreck off Italy's Lampedusa island
Shipwreck off Italy's Lampedusa island
Shipwreck off Italy's Lampedusa island
Shipwreck off Italy's Lampedusa island
Shipwreck off Italy's Lampedusa island
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "Determined action should be taken" to "prevent the loss of lives at sea," say EU leaders
  • EU leaders have discussed the issue of migration at a summit in Brussels
  • 697 people from five migrant boats needed to be rescued overnight
  • The Italian island of Lampedusa is a common destination for migrants sailing from Africa

Rome (CNN) -- Italian coast guards rescued nearly 700 people in five separate operations overnight around the island of Lampedusa, they said Friday.

News of the rescue operations came as European Union leaders were meeting in Brussels, Belgium, for a summit at which the issue of migration was high on the agenda.

The deaths of more than 300 African migrants in a shipwreck off Lampedusa on October 3 shocked Italy and the world, and led to calls for EU lawmakers to review their migration policies.

The European Council meeting was largely overshadowed by controversy over claims the United States has been spying on its European allies.

Migrants appear undeterred, even after deadly shipwrecks

Dozens killed in Italy boat accident
Lampedusa: Refugees' gateway to Europe
Survivors look back at shipwreck tragedy

But in a statement of its conclusions, the EU leaders expressed "deep sadness" over the recent migrant deaths in the Mediterranean and pledged action to tackle the issue.

"Based on the imperative of prevention and protection and guided by the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, determined action should be taken in order to prevent the loss of lives at sea and to avoid that such human tragedies happen again," it said.

The EU leaders said they would work with migrants' countries of origin and international organizations such as the U.N. refugee agency to try to address the root causes of migration.

They also called for "the fight against trafficking and smuggling of human beings to be stepped up" in the European Union and countries that migrants originate from or pass through.

The European Union is setting up a new border surveillance system and Mediterranean task force to bolster its efforts and will review its asylum immigration policies next summer, it said.

Read more: Mediterranean 'becoming immigrants' cemetery'

Because of its location as the closest Italian island to Africa, Lampedusa is a frequent destination for African refugees seeking to enter European Union countries, and shipwrecks off its shores are common.

But despite the dangers, migrants keep on coming. Within days of the October 3 sinking, another 34 people died when their boat capsized. Hundreds more have been rescued from often unseaworthy vessels.

Many of the migrants are from African nations, while others have fled war-torn Syria, officials say.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres has called for an international process to consider refugees' medical needs and asylum requests and help them settle in Europe or elsewhere.

The Italian coast guards said Friday they led the rescue of four boats with 219, 201, 95, and 91 people on board, and helped with a Maltese rescue of another vessel carrying 91 people -- a total of 697 people.

Read more: Lampedusa - Why tough penalties won't work

CNN's Hada Messia reported from Rome and Laura Smith-Spark wrote and reported in London.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:42 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
updated 11:45 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
updated 4:58 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
updated 11:33 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
updated 12:07 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
updated 1:48 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
updated 5:59 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT