UN refugee agency reports some 1,000 refugees and migrants rescued off Italian coast

Some 1,000 people of various nationalities, including refugee families and unaccompanied children, were rescued yesterday from the Mediterranean Sea, the UN refugee agency said today.

In one operation carried out yesterday, about 500 people travelling in two fishing boats that had departed several days earlier from Egypt were rescued off Sicily, south-east of Cape Passero, William Spindler, spokesperson of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a regular bi-weekly news briefing to reporters at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

According to the Italian Coastguard, there are some Syrians and Iraqis among this group, as well as people from other nationalities.

Apart from the two fishing boats that sailed from Egypt, it is believed that there were other smaller boats that came from Libya, the spokesperson said.

Disembarkation of the 1,000 people rescued yesterday is taking place today at four different locations in southern Italy: Augusta, Catania, Crotone and Palermo, and will likely last the whole day.

UNHCR staff will be present and will be giving information and assistance to the persons rescued in the operations, which were coordinated by Frontex, Mr. Spindler noted.

So far this year, 187,920 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe by sea, during which 1,361 have either died or been reported missing. Of those making the journey, 155,765 have reached Greece and 31,252 have reached Italy.

“UNHCR continues to advocate for legal pathways for refugees to reach Europe through resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes, family reunification, private sponsorship, humanitarian and refugee student or work visas, etc., as a way to help put an end to the smuggling of human beings,” the spokesperson said.

Source: UN News Centre