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Migrants rescued after days at sea

Published 06/05/2015

Migrants disembark from the Iceland coast guard vessel Tyr at Messina harbour, Sicily (AP)
Migrants disembark from the Iceland coast guard vessel Tyr at Messina harbour, Sicily (AP)

Italian crews have rescued a boat-load of migrants who say they were at sea for 12 days.

The rescue of the 98 passengers - a third of them women and three of them pregnant - was the latest as waves of migrants try to reach Europe aboard smugglers' boats.

The Italian border patrol police said today its Monte Cimone ship intercepted the 50-metre migrant boat about 200 miles off Sicily. Passengers reported having been at sea for 12 days, the last two adrift and without food or water and with the ship's hold flooded.

Meanwhile, the EU's foreign minister Federica Mogherini is due to brief the UN Security Council on the Mediterranean migrant crisis on Monday.

Some European Union leaders have proposed a UN-blessed operation to destroy smugglers' boats before they are used. The idea, however, raises a host of legal implications, and Russia - which has veto power at the Security Council - has already opposed any ship-destruction resolution.

"Apprehending human traffickers and actually arresting those vessels is one thing, but destroying them would be going too far," Russia's ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told reporters in Brussels.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has also said destroying the unseaworthy smuggling ships isn't the "appropriate" response since it could affect Libya's fishermen and legitimate boat owners.

"Addressing the root causes of this issue may take a longer time, but it is the way to address it comprehensively," Mr Ban said after going out on an Italian rescue patrol last week.

As the diplomatic process wears on, the migrants keep coming.

Two coast guard rescue boats brought 650 migrants ashore today in Roccella Ionica, an Italian port in the southern Calabria region, while an equal number arrived in Naples. Hundreds more were brought ashore in rescue boats to the Italian cities of La Spezia, Taranto, Messina and elsewhere.

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