About 800 migrants rescued off coast of Italy

Oct. 25, 2013 at 1:13 PM

ROME, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- Italian authorities Friday rescued more than 800 refugees in four operations in the waters between Sicily and Tunisia, officials said.

Two Italian Navy vessels picked up 400 people in the area while patrolling as part of the new Mare Nostrum surveillance operation, Italy's ANSA news agency reported. Later, two Italian Coast Guard ships rescued 250 people about 25 miles off the coast of the island of Lampedusa.

Another Coast Guard patrol vessel picked up 95 Eritrean refugees 103 miles southeast of Lampedusa, and a Panamanian-registered merchant navy ship was sent by Italian port authorities to rescue another 80 people about 110 miles south of the island.

The rescues come as European Union leaders met in Brussels for a summit at which the issue of migration is high on the agenda, CNN reported.

European lawmakers have called for reviews of migration policies after a shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa on Oct. 3 resulted in the deaths of more than 300 African migrants.

EU heads of state "are expected to agree that determined action should be taken to prevent the loss of lives at sea and to avoid that such human tragedies happen again," said the agenda for the European Council meeting.

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