Over 700 rescued off Libyan coast

Trapani, Oct 14 (IANS/AKI) A total of 702 asylum seekers including nine pregnant women and many children arrived in the Sicilian port city of Trapani overnight after being rescued from overcrowded boats off the Libyan coast, the Italian coast guard said.

The asylum seekers, mainly from Eritrea, Somalia and Uganda, were rescued from the Mediterranean sea by a ship belonging to Doctors without Borders medical charity in two separate operations on Tuesday.

Around 132,000 refugees and migrants have reached Italy so far this year, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

Italy and Greece are the first countries of entry for the majority of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean to seek refuge in Europe, where over half a million people have landed so far this year.

On Friday, 19 asylum seekers, including five women, all Eritrean nationals, were flown to Sweden from Rome, marking the start of a controversial plan agreed last month by European Union heads of government to redistribute 160,000 people from Italy and Greece within the bloc over the next two years.

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