'Syrians and Egyptians' among migrants reaching Italy

10.08.2013 05:06

Syrians and Egyptians are reported to
be among nearly 700 migrants who
arrived illegally by boat in southern
Italy in the space of 24 hours.
In one boat, coast guards found 176
people, including 41 women and 73
children, who said they were from the
two countries, Italian media report.
Each had reportedly paid at least $2,000
(£1,290; 1,500 euros) to people
traffickers for the two-week journey.
African migrants rescued separately said
two people had died at sea.
EU states such as Malta are struggling to
cope with the migrant influx.
On Tuesday, the country refused to
accept a group of African migrants
rescued by an oil tanker en route from
Libya, before Italy stepped in to allow
them to land in Sicily.
The European Commission had tried to
persuade Malta to accept the migrants on
humanitarian grounds but Malta argued
they were not in danger and should have
been taken back to Libya.
About 7,800 illegal migrants and asylum
seekers landed on the coast of Italy in
the first six months of this year,
according to the UN refugee agency .
They had mostly departed from North
Africa - from Libya in the main - but also
from Greece and Turkey.
Hospital treatment
The group of 176 migrants rescued by
Italian coast guards on Thursday were
given accommodation in Portopalo, a
town near the city of Syracuse, the local
newspaper Siracusa News reports.
Several pregnant women among the
group were taken to hospital.
On Wednesday night, a group of 100
migrants, said to be Syrians, was rescued
from a boat and taken to Calabria, on
the Italian mainland close to Sicily.
The group included 16 women and 44
children, and they too had reportedly
been travelling for two weeks, since
leaving Syria.
In the period between Wednesday night
and Thursday afternoon, a total of about
400 mainly African migrants were
rescued from three boats off southern
Italy, most of them off the island of
Migrants aboard one boat said two
people, including a child of seven, had
died on board in the scorching heat.
The new arrivals came shortly after Italy
took in 102 migrants rejected by Malta,
who arrived in Syracuse aboard the
tanker Salamis.
Malta, the EU's smallest member-state,
took in some 200 other boat migrants
this week.
In its report on Mediterranean crossings,
the UN refugee agency notes that Syrians
and Egyptians have previously been
found trying to enter Europe by boat.
However, most such migrants have their
origin in sub-Saharan Africa, and the
Horn of Africa in particular.
Syria has been wracked by a bloody civil
war for more than two years while Egypt
has suffered from political instability and
a weak economy in the same period.
Migrants arriving clandestinely by boat in
EU states are assessed to see whether
they have genuine grounds for seeking
asylum in Europe.