700 Migrants Rescued Off Italian Coast as EU Leaders Discuss Immigration Policy

EU leaders address immigration concerns as 700 migrants are rescued by the Italian coast guard.

An Italian Coast Guard boat carries rescued African migrants to the Italian Island of Lampedusa after their boat caught on fire and capsized Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.
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More than 700 migrants have been rescued off the coast of the Italian island of Lampadusa in the last 24 hours. Italian coast guards told The Associated Press that five migrant boats requested aid since Thursday afternoon, with some carrying as many as 200 migrants.

Thousands of Africans, many coming from poverty stricken nations such as Syria and Eritrea, make the treacherous passage through the Mediterranean Sea every year, with hundreds losing their lives in the process.

[READ: Hundreds of Migrants Rescued at Sea Near Italy]

Lampadusa received a lot of attention earlier this month, when a shipwreck off its coast killed more than 300 African migrants. The incident has forced European lawmakers to include emigration policy discussions on the agenda of the European Council meeting held today.

The European Union summit being held in Brussels is expected to address Italy's and Malta's appeals for support in addressing the growing problem of illegal migration.

The two countries have specifically asked EU leaders to focus on opening more channels of migration as well as spreading migrants more evenly across the EU.

[ALSO: Migrant Shipwreck Death Toll Rising as 200 People Remain Unaccounted For]

However, leaders are also aware of many EU citizens' opposition to additional immigration authorizations, the BBC reports.

The European Council informed CNN that EU heads of state "are expected to agree that determined action should be taken to prevent the loss of lives at sea and to avoid that such human tragedies happen again."

But an EU source told BBC that while EU governments will probably be willing to improve cooperation, no additional money or resources will be provided for the cause.

Sheila Keetharuth, U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, told the BBC that 7,504 Eritreans and 7,557 Syrians have landed in Italy since the beginning of 2013, and she notes that number that will likely go up due to the egregious human rights violations occurring in those areas.

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