(AFP) A total of 116 migrants were plucked to safety from the Mediterranean on Saturday, three of whom had week-old bullet wounds, rescuers said.
Rescuers found 20 women and a child amongst the men and teenage boys on board, three of whom “presented with gun wounds dating from around a week ago,” humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee said.
The migrants were picked up by the Aquarius, a former North Atlantic fisheries protection ship now used by SOS Mediterranee, following a distress signal alert from the Rome-based Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre.
Two of the injured were said to be teenagers aged 15 and 17.
The Aquarius ship, which has doctors and nurses on board, has picked up some 700 people in distress so far this month as migrants from Syria and elsewhere seek to reach Western Europe and start new lives.
Meanwhile 50 migrants attempted in vain to force their way across the Italian border with France in the early hours of Saturday, a local French official said.
“All the migrants who managed to get past the border crossing, as well as those who travelled along the rail line from Italy , were detained and not allowed into France,” an official from France’s Alpes-Maritimes region said.
Italy insisted Friday it is not facing an “invasion” after a spike in migrant boat crossings from Libya exacerbated fears the country was on the verge of becoming the main entry point for people trying to reach Europe.
Fears are running high in Italy that it could pay the price of EU moves to close routes through the Greek Islands and the Balkans.
The French regional official said there had been a slight rise in the numbers seeking to cross over from Italy to France in recent days.
Italy and France are both members of Europe’s free-travel Schengen zone but Paris has re-established its border controls following a string of deadly jihadist attacks in Paris last November which left 130 people dead.