A member of the Italian Red Cross helps a migrant after he disembarks from the Italian Coast Guard vessel 'Diciotti' on January 8, 2018 in the port of Catania following a rescue operation at sea. — AFP picROME, Jan 12 — Italian coastguard service said yesterday 264 migrants had been rescued from a boat off the coast of Calabria, where traffickers have increasingly been using smaller boats recently.
The vessel was sighted by a plane belonging to the EU border agency Frontex and the migrants were rescued off the southern city of Crotone, a spokesman said.
The spokesman said the boat probably came from Turkey. Several coastguard boats and a British ship working for Frontex took part in the rescue effort.
In December 2014 and January 2015, traffickers abandoned about six large vessels carrying hundreds of migrants off the Italian coast after putting the vessels on auto pilot.
“It is rare to see large vessels in this zone, in general it is sailboats here,” the spokesman said.
For Italy, 2017 was a turning point: the country went from large-scale arrivals in the first six months to a sharp drop off, thanks to controversial agreements with Libya, from where many such boats set sail.
Throughout last year some 119,000 people landed in Italy, down 35 per cent on 2016.