Hundreds of fleeing Syrian refugees reach Italian coast

ROME — Hundreds of Syrian refugees have been rescued in rough seas and brought to Italy’s southern coast since Friday morning, the Italian coast guard said Saturday.

Three boats carrying 809 refugees and possibly some migrants, including many women and children, were intercepted off the Mediterranean islands of Lampedusa and Sicily and off the mainland region of Calabria in the toe of Italy. One boat carrying 171 refugees was in difficulty and gradually sinking when it was rescued about 25 miles off Calabria, the coast guard said.

A boy with toy gun poses for picture in front of barricades at the police headquarters in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slaviansk, April 17, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Ukraine's government needs to provide guarantees to its Russian-speaking population in the east of the country to resolve the crisis. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

A boy with a toy gun poses in front of the barricaded police headquarters in Slaviansk, eastern Ukraine.

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All the 359 refugees rescued off Syracuse in Sicily and the 171 rescued off Calabria appeared to be from Syria, the Italian authorities said, while the nationality of those rescued off Lampedusa was not available.

The number of Syrian refugees reaching Italy has increased steadily in recent months. The United Nations estimates that 3,300 have arrived since the start of August.

More than 2 million refugees have fled Syria’s civil war, mainly to neighboring Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, out of a population of about 20 million.

Illegal migrants intercepted by Italian authorities are taken to state-run immigration centers. Some leave the often lightly guarded buildings to seek work, and those who remain and cannot prove that they are political refugees can be sent home.

— Reuters

 
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