Coast guard rescues 125 migrants stranded off Lampedusa

The group, believed to have crossed from Libya, included 49 women and 20 children

Sam Hancock
Thursday 09 September 2021 17:16
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<p>The Italian coast guard uses an inflatable raft to rescue migrants stuck on the shore of the Isola dei Conigli island</p>

The Italian coast guard uses an inflatable raft to rescue migrants stuck on the shore of the Isola dei Conigli island

More than 120 migrants have been rescued from an uninhabited Italian island after at least one of the two boats they were travelling on was damaged and the group became stranded.

The Italian coast guard said the migrants were found after reports of a group “huddling” on the rocky shore of Isola dei Conigli, or Rabbit Island, near Lampedusa in the country’s south.

Officials added the 125 migrants, including 49 women and 20 children, were in “an evident state of shock” when they were rescued. They are thought to have crossed the Mediterranean from the coast of Libya.

The rocky islet on which they were spotted is close to one of Lampedusa’s most popular beaches.

One of the two boats that the migrants had travelled on was found partially sunk, the coast guard said.

The rescue operation, which took place at around dawn on Thursday, was complicated by rough seas and jagged reefs, officials said.

Special coast guard rescue swimmers had to jump into the sea near where the migrants were gathered to bring them an inflatable yellow raft. The same swimmers were also involved in the operation to rescue people from the water.

A diver then guided the raft to a pair of motorboats as the vessels’ crew members worked to instruct the migrants to climb aboard the raft in groups of three.

The migrants were spotted after reports of a big group huddling at the base of a cliff

“The rescue was particularly complex because of the choppy sea and because of the presence of rocks,” the coast guard said in a statement.

It added that all the migrants were in good health.

Eventually all 125 were hoisted safely aboard the rescue vessels, given protective wraps and transported to Lampedusa’s port – about 2.5 miles to the east – which, because it is located closer to Tunisia than mainland Italy, has attracted tens of thousands of migrants and refugees in recent years.

So popular is the island for crossings that it has a special housing complex for migrants who reach the island after being intercepted by Italian officials.

Italy is known for its harsh asylum policy, with requests more often than not denied, unless someone can prove they are fleeing war and other conflict or persecution. Poverty is not considered a reason to grant settlement by the EU member.

Additional reporting by AP

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