Italy tells migrants 'Welcome, you're safe'; tells EU to help more
Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 01:51
May 21 - Italy seeks more EU support as search and rescue crews struggle to cope with the rising tide of migrants turning up on its shores. Vanessa Johnston reports.
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Italian Naval officers search for migrants off the coast of Sicily, who are increasingly arriving from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
The officers spot a small fishing boat.
Captain Aldo Dolfini barks orders to rescue the hundreds of migrants on board.
(SOUNDBITE) (Italian) SAN GIORGIO CAPTAIN ALDO DOLFINI SAYING:
"Unfortunately the situation is deteriorating, the wind force is increasing, we foresee a worsening of the sea conditions. Our objective is to reach the boat and, if we need to, intervene as quickly as possible. We will try to get there before dark because that is when everything becomes more difficult."
The search and rescue operation, known as Mare Nostrum or "Our Sea" was launched in October 2013, after 366 migrants drowned in a shipwreck a mile from the coast of Lampedusa, Italy's southernmost point.
Since then, more than 43,000 people have been pulled from the seas.
Commander of Mare Nostrum, Admiral Mario Culcasi says there's no going back.
(SOUNDBITE) (Italian) COMMANDER OF MARE NOSTRUM ADMIRAL MARIO CULCASI SAYING:
"We cannot stop Mare Nostrum - it would mean an immediate death sentence for millions of people. There will certainly be an evolution of Mare Nostrum, it could grow or be reduced, but it just can't be stopped at the moment."
It's a major issue for Europe as it prepares for the parliamentary elections this weekend.
Italy is feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility of rescuing and caring for migrants and wants more EU support.
The EU maintains it does plenty to help; providing air surveillance and funding for border control.
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