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Italy rescues 1,100 boat migrants, warns of surge

Published on Feb 7, 2014 3:19 AM

ROME (AFP) - Italy's navy said Thursday it had rescued more than 1,100 immigrants on eight dinghies in 24 hours and warned that calmer seas could see the numbers rise further.

"Eight boats carrying a total of 1,123 people were assisted on Wednesday off the coast of Lampedusa island. They all appear to be from sub-Saharan Africa," captain Marco Maccaroni told AFP.

"They are being transported to Augusta in Sicily, where they will arrive early Friday," he said. Around 50 women were among those crowded onto the dinghies, along with dozens of alleged minors.

The migrants were rescued as part of the Italian government's "Mare Nostrum" operation, which mobilises warships, amphibious vessels and aircraft to try and prevent further tragedies like the two shipwrecks in October in which more than 400 immigrants died.

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