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US navy rescues 128 Somali migrants

A US navy ship rescued 128 migrants in the Mediterranean 75 miles south of Malta

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The U.S. Navy rescued 128 migrants Wednesday after their vessel sank off the Mediterranean coast of Malta, amid a fresh appeal by Malta's prime minister demanding Europe take action to manage the influx of refugees.

The Somali migrants were left dealing with high winds and rough seas that were rocking their raft some 75 miles south of Malta when it was spotted by a Maltese patrol aircraft Wednesday.

A tanker was the first on the scene, but its crew said they could not bring the migrants on board, forcing an intervention by the USS San Antonio, a U.S. navy ship headquartered in Naples, Italy.

It was the same American warship where Al-Qaeda terror suspect Abu Anas Al Liby, who was snatched from Libya by U.S. special forces earlier this month, was interrogated.

The migrants were eventually taken to Malta.

Hundreds of asylum-seekers from Eritrea, Somalia and Syria have drowned in two tragedies this month — the first on Oct. 3 near the Italian island of Lampedusa, the second was on Oct. 11 between Lampedusa and Malta.

Joseph Muscat, the Maltese prime minister, has called on the European Union to "translate words into action," following promises of greater assistance with asylum-seekers.

Earlier this week, Sicily declared a state of emergency in response to the rising number of migrants trying to enter Europe on crowded smuggler boats, which many experts say are unfit for travel.

Drones, warships and helicopters were deployed on Tuesday in and around Italian waters to scare off smugglers trying to bring the boats into the country.

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said that the navy had rescued 290 migrants on Tuesday near Lampedusa. The latest arrivals came on top of the estimated 32,000 asylum seekers that the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said have landed in Italy and Malta so far this year.

A summit of EU leaders in Brussels next week is expected to discuss the refugee issue.

Al Jazeera and wire services


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