Skip to main content

Italian navy rescues 730 migrants in overcrowded boats off Sicily

By Lindsay Isaac and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 9:55 AM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
[File photo] Italian coast guards rescued nearly 700 people off the island of Lampedusa on October 25, 2013.
[File photo] Italian coast guards rescued nearly 700 people off the island of Lampedusa on October 25, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rescued migrants, who set sail from North Africa, are being taken to a Sicilian port
  • Boats were losing buoyancy and didn't have life jackets, navy says
  • The navy says 124 women and 29 children are among those rescued
  • Italy is a major gateway into Europe for migrants from North Africa

(CNN) -- The Italian navy rescued 730 migrants from overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean Sea south of Sicily, it said Wednesday.

The migrants, who departed in two boats from North Africa, are being taken to a port in Sicily's Agrigento province, the navy said in a statement.

Those rescued include 124 women and 29 children, it said. The overcrowded boats were losing buoyancy and the migrants were not equipped with life jackets, the navy added.

Italy is a major gateway into Europe for migrants who come by sea from North Africa in hope of reaching EU soil.

Shipwrecks off the shores of its Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Lampedusa are common, thanks to the frequent use of overcrowded and barely seaworthy vessels.

Video shows naked migrants being hosed

But despite the dangers, migrants keep coming.

Some of the migrants are from African nations, particularly Eritrea and Somalia, while others have fled war-torn Syria, officials say.

According to the European border agency Frontex, more than 12,000 illegal migrants were detected off Sicily and 8,000 off Lampedusa in the third quarter of last year.

Many of those arriving on Italy's shores have set sail from Libya, the agency said.

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

International organizations such as the U.N. refugee agency have called on European and other leaders to try to address the root causes of migration and to create legal alternatives to dangerous sea crossings.

READ: More than 800 migrants rescued from Mediterranean

READ: Would-be immigrants storm Spanish enclave on Moroccan coast

CNN's Marie-Louise Gumuchian contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
The comparisons are inevitable: A student-led campaign challenges Beijing authorities for greater freedom. Could Hong Kong protests lead to another Tiananmen?
updated 11:54 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
With an efficient subway, inexpensive taxis and a good public bus system, Hong Kong is normally an easy city to navigate ...
updated 11:50 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Experts believe that ISIS may be using a Spanish enclave to bring jihad to Europe.
updated 3:52 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
In a country with not enough toilets, scavengers are paid just $5 a day to scoop human waste.
updated 7:32 PM EDT, Sun September 28, 2014
CNN's Ivan Watson was in the middle of a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong when things got out of hand.
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The world's animal population has halved in 40 years as humans put unsustainable demands on Earth, a new report warns.
updated 8:49 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Every day, refugees and migrants risk their lives as they seek a new life. Now, a new report puts a figure to the number of victims.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
It's a frightening prospect for South Koreans: secret North Korean tunnels under Seoul
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mainstream commentators must promote positive role models to Muslims feeling victimized, writes Ghaffar Hussain.
updated 2:13 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Two men familiar with inside knowledge of ISIS speak with CNN's Arwa Damon.
updated 9:15 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
If you're lucky, your train might be delayed.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 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