Some 30 people die aboard migrant boat bound for Italy
The Italian navy and its coastguard discovered at least 30 bodies in a migrant boat found between Sicily and the North African coast, Italian news agencies reported Monday. The fishing boat was carrying some 590 refugees and migrants.
The rescuers had boarded the boat to evacuate those in most distress, including two pregnant women.
The victims had apparently died of asphyxiation, the news agencies said. It is not the first time Italian rescuers have found that migrants had died on overcrowded boats.
The fishing vessel is being towed by the Italian navy and is expected to arrive later on Monday in Pozzallo on the southeast coast of Sicily.
Over the past weekend more than 1,600 migrants were rescued by Italian authorities, bringing the total number of migrants so far this year to more than 60,000.
The number is expected to soar past the record 63,000 set in 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings.
Italy has long borne the brunt of migrants making the perilous crossing from North Africa to Europe, but EU border agency Frontex says there has been a significant rise in recent months.
The last few weeks have seen a series of tragedies, with ten people drowning and 39 having to be rescued after their boat sank off the Libyan coast earlier in June.
Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano has called for the rescue operation to become a European initiative amid reports of thousands of migrants waiting in Libya to make the trip during the next few weeks.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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