ROME — Italy has rescued about 5,200 men, women and children and recovered three dead bodies from overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean Sea since early Thursday.
Calm seas have led to this latest wave of migrants who have left North African shores for Italy over just three days, a navy spokesman told Reuters, with merchant ships and a Maltese vessel also aiding in the rescue efforts.
The merchant tanker Norient Star recovered three bodies from one of the migrant boats, the spokesman said, adding that he had no details about the cause of the death or identity of the victims.
Three merchant ships, including the Norient Star, took aboard a total of 700 migrants, a navy statement said, and is taking them to ports in Sicily.
Image: Migrants on boats being intercepted by the Italian army off the coast of Sicily on June 6, 2014. Italian Navy / AFP - Getty Images
Migrants on boats being intercepted by the Italian navy off the coast of Sicily on Friday.
The surge in arrivals is straining the ability of the Italian naval mission - called Mare Nostrum or "Our Sea" - to patrol the waters between Africa and Italy on its own. It has prompted local officials in Sicily, where most of the migrants are taken, to call for more European support.
"Europe can't just turn its back on us," Lillo Firetto, mayor of the Sicilian port city of Porto Empedocle, said in a television interview on Sunday. "This isn't just Sicily's border, but it's Europe's border, too."
Italy has repeatedly asked for more European Union countries to join Mare Nostrum, which is Europe's biggest ever search-and-rescue mission, but so far only Slovenia has chipped in, offering one ship for two months late last year.
Read more: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/europe/italy-rescues-5-200-migrants-mediterranean-n125661
Sometimes you'll see people asking why the Italian Navy (don't scoff, they are highly professional and well trained) are not involved in peace keeping along the Libyan coast, Egypt and Israel. This is why.
5200 since Thursday