SHAFAQNA – In a statement on Wednesday, Italy’s officials said the country’s navy carried out various operations in the Strait of Sicily in the last 24 hours to rescue the refugees.
According to PressTV, Italy says it has recovered a total of 1,026 illegal immigrants attempting to reach Europe from Africa in the Mediterranean Sea over the last 24 hours before Christmas.
The navy also found five bodies belonging to immigrants who died trying to cross the Strait of Sicily.
A Maltese merchant ship brought one of the dead migrants to Italian navy’s Etna vessel while a Cypriot motor boat transferred the other four to the Orione patrol boat.
The Italian navy said Etna saved 363 survivors from the waters, the Orione rescued 440, and another vessel, named the Driade, saved another 223 migrants.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, estimated earlier this month that 3,419 migrants had died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean since January 1, making it the deadliest sea route for migrants.
Italy is faced with a massive surge in migrants — many of them from the Middle East and the Horn of Africa — setting off on boats with hopes of reaching Europe.
Lampedusa is a primary entry point for tens of thousands of undocumented migrants sailing from Africa. The island is Italy’s southernmost territory and is located about midway between Sicily and Tunisia.
During the past 20 years, an estimated 17,000 to 20,000 migrants have perished during the dangerous crossing, as they travel on badly overcrowded fishing vessels or rubber boats.