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Migration

Italian coast guards rescue more than 100 refugees from the Mediterranean

The Italian navy and coast guard have rescued more than 100 refugees from a small boat which was facing difficulties in the Mediterranean Sea. It follows a similar rescue by Italy earlier this week.

Italian authorities said on Saturday that despite strong winds, they were able to get the boat's passengers, including 25 children, onto their own vessels and then safely to Sicily.

The 12-meter boat was more than 480 kilometers (300 miles) south of Sicily when it launched distress signals in stormy weather. Those on board were from Syria, news agency AFP reports.

It follows the rescue of another group of more than 100 refugees, again said to be mainly from conflict-ridden Syria, off the coast of Calabria on Italy's southern mainland on December 2.

European response

Migrants, mainly from conflict or poverty-ridden countries in Africa, pay large fees to criminal gangs who organize unauthorized and often dangerous boat journeys from North Africa to the European Union, where they hope to build a better life.

This week's rescues come in the wake of October's shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa, in which more than 360 people died. The tragedy triggered a strong reaction across Europe and calls for action to prevent such incidents in future.

Following the disaster, the Italian government launched "Mare Nostrum", a major operation involving warships and aircraft to prevent further loss of life.

Earlier this month, the European Union launched Eurosur, a new EU border surveillance network aimed at reducing organized crime and rescuing those in distress at sea.

se/ph (dpa, AFP)