- Around 801 refugees aboard two boats were rescued by the Italian coastguard
- They were mostly from Syria and Iraq
- The Italian Interior Ministry records at least 31,250 migrants arriving in Italy so far this year
The Italian coastguard rescued a total of 801 refugees who were aboard two boats just off the western coast of Sicily.
Many of the migrants aboard the boats were from Syria and Iraq. Up to 515 people were cramped from one boat while another 286 had been earlier taken in by a Finnish naval vessel.
Authorities say that individuals of other nationalities were also rescued from the boats, and had all since be taken into safety.
This accounts for the largest mass migration from Syria and Iraq in over a year.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has also noted that more and more refugees are taking the dangerous route to Europe via Italy after it was observed that the number of migrants entering the continent through Turkey and Greece had fallen sharply.
It is believed that the latest batch of rescued refugees are among the estimated 9,149 who have set sail to Italy since April of this year alone. In contrast, only 3,650 migrants arrived via Greece in the same period.
“This might be a first sign of Syrian refugees now choosing the much more dangerous route across the Mediterranean from Northern Africa to Italy, in search of protection in Europe,” said Norwegian Refugee Council director Edouard Rodier told the Independent.
Meanwhile, UNHCR spokesperson Carlotta Sami told Reuters that the latest batch of refugees rescued by the Italian coastguard set out from Egypt, instead of Libya, where previous migrants had launched their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.
All in all, figures from the Italian Ministry of Interior show that at least 31,250 refugees set foot on Italy this year alone; indicating a 14 percent decline from the same period in 2015.
Majority of those recorded by the Italian government come from Nigeria, Gambia, Somalia, and nations on the African Coast.