The Italian navy rescued 1,123 people off the southern coast of Sicily early on Feb. 6. Patrol helicopters spotted the migrants vessels at 8 a.m. local time.
The migrants — who are fleeing mideast violence — were spotted floating on nine ships, 222 kilometres south-east of Lampedusa. Four Italian naval vessels took part in the rescue that began Wednesday. The rescue efforts finished early on Thursday morning.
A happy ending
Among the migrants on board were 47 women and 50 children – four of the women were pregnant. Rescuers managed to save all passengers.
The passengers from these ships are currently on their way to the port of Augusta, located on the eastern coast of Sicily.
They are expected to arrive Feb. 7. Once at the port, each individual will be assessed to see if they have legitimate grounds for seeking asylum.
To gain asylum, the passengers must prove to Italian authorities that they are fleeing persecution from their home country, or that they will be harmed or killed if they return. In 2012, European Union member states rejected nearly 75 per cent of all asylum applications.
Dreaming of a new life
Between 2012 and 2013, migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean and into Italy have more than tripled, caused in part by the on-going civil war in Syria and the turmoil in the Horn of Africa.
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The island of Lampedusa is the southern-most part of Italian territory, located approximately 150 kilometres from African coast. Half-way between Africa and Sicily, the island has seen a large influx of migrants in the past two years. The Italian government says 42,925 migrants arrived by sea in 2013.