Italian navy rescues 700 refugees, finds four dead

Italian navy rescues at least 700 refugees from six leaky boats in Mediterranean while four others are found dead

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Refugees sit on a rescue boat of the Italian naval vessel Bettica during a rescue operation of 219 refugees February 23, 2016 handout picture provided by Marina Militare.

Updated Feb 24, 2016

More than 700 refugees were rescued from six leaky boats in the sea between Tunisia and Sicily on Tuesday and four were found dead, the Italian navy said.

More than 400 refugees have died in the Mediterranean this year, as people continue to try to cross into Europe despite bad winter weather in the second year of Europe's biggest refugee crisis since World War Two.

More than 110,000 people, many fleeing poverty and war in Africa and the Middle East, have arrived in Greece and Italy this year, a sharp increase on 2015, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The navy said one of its ships went to help three boats, recovering 403 survivors and the four bodies. Another ship rescued 219 people from two vessels and a third coordinated the rescue of 105 refugees from their sinking boat.

The navy did not say what nationality the refugees were nor did it give any other information about their identities.

European Union border agency Frontex says bad weather cut the number of people arriving last month in Greece, the main gateway to Europe for migrants, but the number was still nearly 40 times higher than in the previous January.

Most of those were from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, while most of those who entered Europe via Italy were Nigerian, according to Frontex.

Italy called on Monday for shared funding, including through issuing EU bonds, for a common policy to manage external borders and cope with the refugee crisis.

TRTWorld, Reuters