The Italian coast guard rescued 125 people from the rocky shore of a tiny uninhabited island on Thursday. Rescue workers said the migrants were in a 'state of shock'.
A group of 125 migrants, 20 of them minors, were "in a clear state of shock" when they were picked up by the Italian coast guard on Isola dei Conigli, close to Lampedusa island, early on Thursday morning (September 9). The tiny, rocky island is just across from one of Lampedusa's most popular beaches. One of the two boats that the migrants had traveled on was found partially sunk, the coast guard said.
According to authorities, rough seas and dangerous reefs made the rescue especially difficult: special coast guard rescue swimmers had to jump into the water near where the migrants were gathered to bring them an inflatable yellow raft. A diver guided the raft to a pair of motorboats as the vessels' crew members shouted to the migrants to get aboard the raft in groups of three.
Eventually all 125 people were hoisted safely aboard the rescue vessels, given protective wraps against the early morning chill and taken to Lampedusa's port about four kilometers to the east. The coast guard said in a statement that all the migrants were in good health.
More migrants risk dangerous crossing
Lampedusa, between Sicily and the Tunisian coast, has one accommodation center for migrants who reach the island after they are rescued at sea or arrive on fishing boats or rubber dinghies, having crossed the Central Mediterranean.
Migrants have been arriving in Lampedusa in very large numbers in recent weeks, leading to severe overcrowding in the center, which was was designed to hold a maximum of 250 people.
At the end of August more than 500 migrants arrived on Lampedusa in two days. Many of them were injured and some had scars from torture, according to medical staff treating the migrants.
The Central Mediterranean is an extremely deadly migration route – this year alone more than 1,000 people have died attempting the crossing.