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Two corpses on migrant boat rescued near Lampedusa

Over 1,000 lives saved since Saturday

18 February, 15:06
Two corpses on migrant boat rescued near Lampedusa (updates previous) (ANSA) - Rome, February 18 - Two corpses were aboard a migrant boat that was rescued by a merchant ship some 145 miles southwest of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa on Monday, Italian authorities said Tuesday.

The merchant ship was told to move to the area of the boat in trouble by Italian coast guards after they received telephone calls for help from migrants aboard.

In addition to the two dead male migrants, 107 men and 16 women were aboard the boat.

They are now being taken to the Sicilian port of Augusta aboard the merchant ship.

Italian authorities rescued over 1,000 people at sea between Saturday and Monday after the end of a period of bad weather led to a resumption of migrant crossings.

Tens of thousands of migrants arrive in Italy from North Africa every year and many others die attempting the crossing in often rickety vessels.

In October around 400 people died in two separate migrant-boat disasters near the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, which is often the migrants' first port of call. Following the incident and the public outcry, later that month the Italian government launched Operation Mare Nostrum, which makes use of amphibious ships, unmanned drones and helicopters with infrared equipment in its search and rescue missions.

Every year for the past 15, an average of 40,000 illegal immigrants have disembarked on European shores and the mortality rate has increased, a report by the Florence-based European University Institute said in December.

Most recently, more than 30 out of every 1,000 of those who tried to cross the Mediterranean have died along the way.

Italy's southern migrant centers are often overcrowded and underfunded, drawing criticism from European authorities, while the Italian government begs its neighbors for support to deal with the waves of migrants washing up on its shores.