Almost 350 boat migrants arrived on Italy’s southern shores on Tuesday, after authorities rescued them from distressed vessels in the Strait of Sicily during the last 24 hours.
Some 250 would-be refugees, claiming to be from Syria and Egypt, landed in Syracuse, eastern Sicily, after being picked up on Monday afternoon by an Italian navy patrol around 185 kilometers from the coast.
A woman who had just given birth to a girl was among the passengers. Once onshore, they were hospitalized along with another heavily pregnant woman who was on board.
A second landing took place overnight in Portopalo di Capo Passero, a village on Sicily’s south-eastern tip, where a vessel with 93 migrants ran aground near the beach. The local coast guard intervened and steered it to the local port.
There were Iranians, Iraqi, Syrians and Afghans among the passengers, the Italian news agency ANSA said.
A group of another 150 migrants from a third vessel was still out at sea, waiting to be transferred on to Italian vessels and escorted to mainland Sicily, ANSA said.
Italy has been facing an almost daily flow of migrant boat arrivals in recent weeks. Earlier this month, 366 people drowned in a shipwreck off Lampedusa, a tiny island where thousands of undocumented immigrants arrive each year.
The tragedy - which was followed by another accident in the open sea south of Lampedusa and Malta, in which at least 38 died - triggered calls for more European Union action to prevent more migrant deaths.
“Europe ... cannot be a bystander, if it acts that way it dies, along with those hundreds of people,” Prime Minister Enrico Letta told the Italian parliament ahead of Thursday and Friday’s EU summit, due to discuss the migration crisis. “The bell tolls for everyone, for united Europe and for each of its member states, including those furthest from the Mediterranean,” the Italian leader said.