Skip to main content

Italian navy rescues 233 migrants from Mediterranean boat

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 1455 GMT (2255 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Greece's coast guard rescues 85 migrants in a separate operation
  • The Italian navy rescues 233 migrants from an overcrowded boat in high seas
  • The migrants are being taken to a port on the Italian island of Sicily, the navy says
  • Tens of thousands embark on the risky crossing each year in the hope of reaching EU soil

(CNN) -- More than 200 migrants have been rescued from an overcrowded boat at risk of sinking in rough waters in the Mediterranean Sea, the Italian navy said Thursday.

The alarm was raised on the evening of New Year's Day, when the boat was spotted about 80 miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The boat, which measured only 10 meters (33 feet) long, was carrying 233 people without life jackets, the navy statement said.

Can world prevent more Lampedusas?

Given the rough seas and the boat's "precarious state of buoyancy," the decision was made to transfer the 233 people, seven of them women, to a navy ship, the San Marco. All were safely recovered, the statement said.

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

The migrants, from Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan, Zambia and Mali, were all moved safely, the statement said.

After being transferred to a frigate, the migrants will be taken to the port of Augusta, on the Italian island of Sicily, where they are expected to arrive Thursday evening, it said.

How do illegal immigrants get into EU?

Meanwhile, the Greek coast guard has rescued 85 migrants -- including 15 children and 20 women -- after their boat got into trouble in stormy weather in the southeastern Aegean Sea.

They were taken to a port on the Aegean island of Astypalea, where they arrived Thursday, the coast guard said. They are being given medical help, food and other emergency supplies, the coast guard said.

Greece's semiofficial Macedonian News Agency reported that the migrants are Syrians and Afghans, but the coast guard has not yet confirmed their nationality.

Sea of death

As the closest Italian island to Africa, Lampedusa is a frequent destination for refugees seeking to enter European Union countries, and shipwrecks off its shores are common.

Many of the migrants are from African nations, while others have fled war-torn Syria.

More than 300 African migrants died in October after their ship sank off the island's shores. Days later, another 34 people died when their boat capsized.

Tens of thousands of people are rescued each year from the Mediterranean, according to the European Union border agency, Frontex.

Smugglers often pack migrants into unseaworthy, ill-equipped and overcrowded boats, adding to the dangers of the journey.

Between January and September of last year, 31,000 migrants are believed to have entered the European Union illegally by crossing the Mediterranean to land on Italian soil or the island of Malta, Frontex said.

Opinion: Why Europe's immigration nightmare is only beginning

Opinion: What is place of outsiders in European society?

Journalists Livia Borghese and Elinda Labropoulou contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2058 GMT (0458 HKT)
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0333 GMT (1133 HKT)
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1748 GMT (0148 HKT)
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1021 GMT (1821 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT