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Italian navy rescues over 1,000 migrants from overcrowded boats in a day

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 11:29 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
[File photo] Migrants are rescued off the island of Lampedusa on October 25, 2013.
[File photo] Migrants are rescued off the island of Lampedusa on October 25, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Italy's navy picks up the migrants between Tuesday and Wednesday morning
  • The migrants, who sailed from North Africa, include women and children
  • Italy is a major gateway into Europe for migrants who come by sea from North Africa
  • Some migrants come from African nations, others from war-torn countries like Syria

(CNN) -- The Italian navy said it rescued more than 1,000 migrants from several overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean between Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

The migrants, who included women and children, had set off from the North African coast and were not equipped with life jackets, the navy said.

They are now being taken by ship to the port of Augusta, on Italy's Mediterranean island of Sicily.

On Tuesday, three other navy ships disembarked 1,049 more migrants rescued since Monday in the ports of Augusta and Pozzallo, also in Sicily, the navy said.

Video shows naked migrants being hosed
Patrolling the 'Sea of Death'

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 Sicily and the tiny island of Lampedusa are common, thanks to the frequent use of overcrowded and barely seaworthy vessels.

But despite the dangers, migrants keep coming. Some 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.

READ: Italian navy rescues 730 migrants in overcrowded boats off Sicily

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

READ: Italy, EU, investigate treatment of migrants on Lampedusa after video

CNN's Lindsay Isaac contributed to this report.

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