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Coastguard rescues some 1,000 refugees and migrants off Italy


Coastguard rescues some 1,000 refugees and migrants off Italy

Operation plucks Syrians, Iraqis and other nationalities from two boats off the coast of Sicily.
13 May 2016
UNHCR staff wait at the port of Augusta in Sicily to disembark refugees found adrift in the Mediterranean Sea in May 2016.

GENEVA, May 13 (UNHCR) - Approximately 1,000 people of various nationalities, including refugee families and unaccompanied children, have been rescued from the Mediterranean Sea in operations coordinated by Frontex, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said today.

In one operation carried out on Thursday (May 12), some 500 people travelling in two fishing boats that had departed several days earlier from Egypt were rescued off Sicily, south east of Cape Passero.

"According to the Italian Coastguard, among this group there are some Syrians and Iraqis, as well as people from other nationalities," UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler told a news briefing in Geneva on Friday (May 13).

So far this year, 187,920 refugees and migrants have made a perilous trip to Europe by sea, during which 1,361 have either lost their lives or been reported missing. Of those making the journey, 155,765 reached Greece and 31,252, Italy.

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

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

UNHCR staff will be present and will be giving information and assistance to the persons rescued.

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.