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German marine ships rescue 200 refugees in the Mediterranean

German marines have rescued 200 refugees shortly after launching two ships to scour waters between Africa and Europe. The boat carrying the migrants was found 250 kilometers south of Italy's Lampedusa.

The Germany army rescued a wooden boat carrying 200 refugees on Friday, a defense ministry spokesman said in a statement in Berlin.

The ship "Hessen" evacuated the boat in distress about 250 kilometers south of the Italian island Lampedusa. The refugees were brought to an Italian port, the German army said after discussions with Italian marine rescue officials.

The "Hessen," along with the "Berlin," also a Bundeswehr ship, were warned of a refugee distress situation on Monday morning. The ships had begun their search mission on Tuesday, when they sailed from Crete towards the sea area between Libya and Italy.

Migrants' bodies found in shipwreck

In a separate incident, navy officials found many dead bodies after a ship carrying around 800 refugees sank at 157 kilometers off the Libyan coast, German news agency dpa reported. The number of victims could be between 700 and 800, an Italian official confirmed on Friday.

Italian authorities were planning to find the wreckage to check whether some people had been locked in the sunken ship's deck. The boat's captain and a crew member- believed to be guilty of trafficking people- were taken into police custody.

European authorities have stepped up efforts to save refugees after several incidents of shipwrecks killed over 1,500 people since the beginning of this year. Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East cross over to Europe every year. Over 400,000 applications for asylum are expected in 2015 in Germany alone.

mg/bw (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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