Dramatic footage shows Italian coastguard swimming to rescue 125 migrants

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Dramatic footage shows Italian coastguard swimming to rescue 125 migrants after they were shipwrecked in rough seas and left stranded on a rocky island

  • Migrants stranded below cliff on tiny uninhabited islet off island of Lampedusa
  • Asylum seekers, including 49 women and children, found at dawn on Thursday 
  • Dramatic footage shows rescuers swimming to shore to save the migrants
  • Coast guard said operation made difficult by rough seas and jagged reefs 










More than 100 migrants have been rescued by the Italian coastguard after they washed up below rocky cliffs on a tiny uninhabited island in rough seas.

The 125 asylum seekers, including 49 women and 20 children, were discovered at around dawn on Isola dei Conigli after one of their boats sank off Lampedusa. 

Dramatic footage showed rescuers in wetsuits and snorkels swimming inflatable rafts to the shore where waves crashed at the migrants’ feet.

The refugees were transported three at a time to a pair of waiting rescue vessels.  

Dramatic footage shows a rescuer swimming with a raft to the coastguard vessel off the island on Thursday morning

Dramatic footage shows a rescuer swimming with a raft to the coastguard vessel off the island on Thursday morning

Desperate migrants cling onto the inflatable raft as they are hauled to safety in rough seas off Lampedusa on Thursday at around dawn

Desperate migrants cling onto the inflatable raft as they are hauled to safety in rough seas off Lampedusa on Thursday at around dawn

Rescuers carefully load the migrants onto a tiny inflatable raft. The migrants were given metal blankets for warmth while they waited to be transported across to a pair of waiting boats

Rescuers carefully load the migrants onto a tiny inflatable raft. The migrants were given metal blankets for warmth while they waited to be transported across to a pair of waiting boats

A coastguard officer swims the life raft over to the rocky shore as a pair of rescue boats wait nearby

A coastguard officer swims the life raft over to the rocky shore as a pair of rescue boats wait nearby 

The migrants were taken to a pair of waiting rescue vessels before being ferried to Lampedusa's port about two miles east

The migrants were taken to a pair of waiting rescue vessels before being ferried to Lampedusa’s port about two miles east

The coastguard said that the rescue effort was complicated by choppy waters and the jagged reefs which surround the islet. 

Eventually all 125 were hoisted safely aboard the rescue vessels, given protective wraps against the early morning chill and take to Lampedusa’s port about 2 miles to the east.

The coast guard said in a statement that all the migrants were in good health.

Lampedusa has a housing complex for migrants who reach the island after rescue from unseaworthy boats launched by smugglers based in Libya.

Sometimes fishing boats or rubber dinghies crowded with migrants reach the island unaided after setting sail from Tunisia’s coast.

Requests by many of the migrants for asylum are often denied by Italy unless they can document they are fleeing war and other conflict or persecution, not poverty. 

The migrants are hoping to reach relatives or obtain jobs in Europe. 

Nearly 40,000 migrants have arrived in Italy from North Africa so far this year, according to the United Nations.

The crowd of migrants waiting on the shore. One of the boats they used to cross from north Africa sunk

The crowd of migrants waiting on the shore. One of the boats they used to cross from north Africa sunk

So far this year 70,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean into Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta, according to the United Nations

So far this year 70,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean into Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta, according to the United Nations

In total nearly 70,000 have crossed the Mediterranean into Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta.

Around a quarter are Tunisian, 12.5 per cent are Bangladeshi, 8.5 per cent are Egyptian, 6.6 per cent are Ivorian and 5.5 per cent are Syrian.

An estimated 1,195 are dead or missing. 

This year’s arrivals compare with 95,031 migrants crossing the Mediterranean in 2020, 123,663 in 2019 and 141,472 in 2018.

These figures are dwarfed by the more than one million who crossed in 2015 at the height of the European migrant crisis. 

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