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233 migrants rescued from 33-foot boat in rough seas off Italy

Italian Navy / AFP - Getty Images

Immigrants are rescued by the Italian Navy near the island of Lampedusa on Thursday. Italy's navy rescued 233 mostly African immigrants from a boat in trouble off the coast of the Mediterranean island, the scene of two shipwreck tragedies last year.

ROME - The Italian navy has rescued 233 migrants from an overcrowded smugglers' boat in rough seas south of Sicily.

The navy said one of its frigates was bringing the migrants — who were from Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Zambia and Mali — into a Sicilian port on Thursday. They were initially rescued by another naval vessel on Wednesday night some 80 miles south of the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa.

Officials said the migrants had been spotted in a 33-foot boat without any life vests. 

In one of the worst disasters of Europe's immigration crisis, over 300 migrants were killed in a shipwreck off Lampedusa last October.

Each year, thousands of African, Asian or Middle Eastern migrants attempt risky voyages across the Mediterranean Sea in unseaworthy boats, and hundreds die en route. Unless they are eligible for asylum or have families or jobs in Europe, they risk expulsion by Italy. 

- Reuters