Italy: Coast Guard rescues over 2,000 ‘immigrants’ at weekend; smugglers armed; emergency in Lampedusa, 800 ‘refugees’ in hours

These migrants arrived yesterday in Sicily after being rescued on Friday

Rome, February 16 – Italian Coast Guard officials rescued over 2,000 illegal immigrants in a major sea operation at the weekend, while four Kalashnikov-wielding men from Libya threatened some of the rescue agents as they brought migrants on board the Coast Guard vessels.

The armed men told the unarmed rescue agents to leave them their boat after they took the immigrants off, and they left with the empty boat after the rescue took place.

Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi called for international organizations in Libya to get involved, and said the events of the weekend were “an alarming fact, showing a jump in the smugglers’ expertise”…

Lampedusa, February 16 – Hundreds of refugees from Libya, among which many women and children, are arriving in Lampedusa where the situation is critical.

Dozens of vessels have been rescued in the Canal of Sicily by freighters and coast guard cutters going back and forth between the canal and the island’s port in the last few hours. At the moment, the first reception centre, located in contrada Imbriacola, hosts over 800 migrants, two times its capacity, but other “arrivals” are expected in the next few hours. The last disembarkment occured this morning: 269 migrants docked aboard two coast guard cutters. Other 361 refugees in three coast guard cutters arrived during the night: first 120, then 116 followed by other 125 people. The refugees, all coming from countries of sub-Saharan Africa, are mostly Eritrean.

More coverage at The Daily Mail.