The Italian navy said on Thursday that it had rescued more than 1,100 immigrants who were attempting to reach the country by crossing the Mediterranean Sea on small boats. Italy is a hub for immigrants looking to get to Europe and, according to Reuters, “sea arrivals more than tripled in 2013 from the previous year, fuelled by Syria's civil war and strife in the Horn of Africa.” The Italian navy estimates that some 3,000 people are making the dangerous journey to Europe via Italy each month. The latest rescue effort, included four pregnant women and 50 children, according to the navy.
Hundreds of immigrants drowned in shipwrecks in October of last year and to prevent further deaths the Italian government has been more aggressive in identifying and intercepting the small, overcrowded vessels before they run into trouble at sea. The migrants will have the opportunity to claim asylum after they arrive in Italy. “They have to satisfy the authorities that they are fleeing persecution and would face harm or even death if sent back to their country of origin,” according to the BBC. “Nearly three out of four asylum applications in EU states were rejected in 2012.”