Italy: Nearly 500 migrants rescued off Sicily

Rescuing boat people off the coast of Sicily, Tuesday, May 20

The Italian Navy rescued nearly 500 migrants, including 100 children, in an all-night operation on Tuesday. The migrants were brought aboard two navy vessels on Monday evening and Tuesday from two fishing boats tethered together off Sicily.

Most were from Bangladesh, Egypt and Syria, the navy said.

There has been an enormous jump this year in the number of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, an increasing number of them children. Of the 26,644 migrants who arrived in Italy through April 30 this year, 3,848 were minors, and 2,744 of those were unaccompanied.

Migrants from Sub-Saharian areas stand on a rescue boat of Italy’s Navy ship San Giorgio after being rescued in open international waters in the Mediterranean Sea between the Italian and the Libyan coasts May 14, 2014

Update: Italy tells migrants “Welcome, you’re safe,” tells EU to help more: (Reuters) – As night approached one evening in early May, 40 miles off the Libyan coast, Captain Aldo Dolfini trained his binoculars on a tiny vessel packed with 300 desperate men as waves whipped up by a northerly wind crashed against it.

“Tell them we’re Italian! They’ll know they’re safe!” he barked by radio to sailors manning the two small rescue boats he had sent out to meet the unpowered vessel.

The sailors threw life vests onto the boat and began to pull the men, one by one, to safety.

Dolfini, a 52-year-old seafarer with full beard, big belly and unquestioned authority, is on the frontline of one of Europe’s biggest-ever search and rescue missions.