Saving 'poor souls' on Europe's southern edge
LAMPEDUSA (AFP) - For the officers at coast guard headquarters on Italy's Lampedusa island, a normal day is nothing of the sort as they are called out time and again to rescue boat-loads of stricken asylum-seekers floundering off the coast.
The men and women here patrolling Europe's southern frontier often rely on the most basic alert system - a satellite phone call from a crewman asking for help.
They scour their radars for the stricken vessel, dispatch a helicopter with searchlight and set sail on cutters with infrared radars to follow cries for help.
"Rescue operations are often dramatic, in rough seas," coast guard spokesman Filippo Marini said at the busy control room overlooking the island's harbour.