Over 100 refugees rescued from boat, three have bullet wounds

Over 100 refugees rescued from Mediterranean sea, three have week-old bullet wounds

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

A refugee baoat near Samos, January 30, 2016.

A total of 116 refugees were plucked to safety from the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday, rescuers said.

Rescuers found 20 women and a child among the men and teenage boys on board, three of whom were “presented with gun wounds dating from around a week ago," humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee said.

The refugees were picked up by the Aquarius, a former North Atlantic fisheries protection ship now used by SOS Mediterranee, following a distress signal alert from the Rome-based Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre.

Two of the injured were said to be teenagers aged 15 and 17.

The Aquarius ship, which has doctors and nurses on board, has picked up some 700 people in distress so far this month, as refugees and migrants seek to reach Western Europe in hope of a better future.

Meanwhile 50 refugees attempted in vain to force their way across the Italian border with France in the early hours of Saturday, a local French official said.

The refugees "who managed to get past the border crossing, as well as those who travelled along the rail line from Italy, were detained and not allowed into France," said an official from France's Alpes-Maritimes region.

Italy insisted on Friday that it is not facing an "invasion" after a spike in refugee boat crossings from Libya exacerbated fears the country was on the verge of becoming the main entry point for people trying to reach Europe.

Fears are running high in Italy that it could pay the price of EU moves to close routes through the Greek Islands and the Balkans.

The French regional official said there had been a slight rise in the numbers seeking to cross over from Italy to France in recent days.

Italy and France are both members of Europe's free-travel Schengen zone but Paris has re-established its border controls following the terrorist attacks in Paris last November which left 130 people dead.