Italy boat migrants top 2,500 in one weekend

Italy boat migrants top 2,500 in one weekend

ROME - The Italian navy and merchant ships picked up more than 2,500 migrants from the Mediterranean over the weekend as the flow of refugees seeking to reach Europe rose again.

More than 860 migrants, mostly Syrian families, were taken to the Sicilian port of Pozzallo Sunday, showing that many people are still ready to risk the perilous crossing from north Africa in search of a new life.

And on Sunday evening, the Italian coastguard reported it had picked up a total of 320 people off the island of Lampedusa - 240 on one boat and 80 crowded onto a dinghy.

The Italian navy rescued 150,000 people in just over a year before its Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue mission ended on November 1 after other EU governments refused to help Italy meet operational costs that Rome estimated at nine million euros (S$14.6 million) a month.

The mostly Syrian refugees landed in Pozzallo on Sunday included an unusually high proportion of children, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. Around 100 of the migrants were from Morocco, a country not usually represented among the people landing in Italy.

On Saturday a total of 477 migrants were delivered to Porto Empedocle on Sicily's southern coast by Panamanian tanker the Gaz Concord and a navy patrol boat put 354 ashore at Pozzallo.

Greek oil tanker Byzantion picked up 230 people from their distressed boat on Friday evening and another 80 were taken ashore off the heel of Italy after the yacht in which they had travelled from Turkey was intercepted by coastguards.

Another navy boat, the Vega, was due in the mainland port of Reggio Calabria on Monday morning with a load of 230 migrants.

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