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 10:21 AM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
The first human trial of an experimental Ebola vaccine has produced promising results, U.S. scientists said.
updated 9:15 AM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teen in August abandoned home after address made public.
updated 5:36 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
HBO -- backing a documentary based on "Going Clear," a book about Scientology and Hollywood -- isn't taking any chances with legal side.
updated 2:35 PM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Grandmaster Nguyen Van Chieu has devoted his adult life to spreading the word about Vietnames martial art, Vovinam.
updated 6:36 AM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
England cricketer Nick Compton shares insight into "drive and courage" it takes to face fears as top batsman.
updated 7:59 PM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
updated 8:18 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
updated 6:18 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
updated 5:43 AM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
updated 7:51 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
updated 10:50 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
updated 4:06 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
updated 2:45 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
updated 12:03 PM EST, Thu November 27, 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