An Italian rescue ship, part of Italy’s “Mare Nostrum” search-and-rescue policy of aiding migrants while at sea, helped bring the arrivals to the port of Augusta. They were picked up near the island of Lampedusa Thursday. The policy was introduced after 400 migrants, in ill-equipped and overloaded ships, drowned in several incidents in 2013.
Over 300 other migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea Thursday and taken to the port of Messina in Sicily, and 358 more were rescued by the Italian Navy in the Sicilian Channel between Italy and Africa early Friday.
Italy has appealed for international help in coping with the influx of asylum seekers, telling the European Union earlier this week it will be overwhelmed by nearly a million largely poor and unskilled people escaping poverty and military conflict in their home countries.
“Europe should know that Italy is a welcoming country, but we cannot accommodate everyone,” Interior Minister Angelo Alfano said.
The migrants brought in Thursday and Friday said they came from Mali, Ghana, Belize, Niger, Sudan, Syria and the Palestinian Territories. As many as 25,000 have arrived in Italy since the start of 2014, compared to 2,500 in 2013. Many more are expected as the numbers tend to increase in the spring and summer months.