Migrants boat (illustrative)..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Seventeen migrants died on a boat off the coast of Libya, the Italian navy said on Friday (May 30), in the latest episode in the Mediterranean migrant crisis.
The navy said it had rescued 217 migrants in an operation carried out by its ship Fenice and discovered the bodies during that operation. No further details were immediately available.
Italy's coastguard said 22 rescue operations were carried out on Friday and over 4,200 migrants had been rescued. Rescue operations were carried out by the Italian coastguard and navy and by German and Irish ships involved in the EU's Triton operation.
Refugees escaping war and political persecution and economic migrants desperate for a better life have been pouring into Italy this year, with approximately 35,500 arriving there up to the first week of May, the UN refugee agency estimates. About 1,800 are either dead or missing.
Hundreds or thousands of migrants are now setting sail almost every day, mainly from lawless Libya.
Italy is bearing the brunt of Mediterranean rescue operations while European Union authorities press other member states to share the burden more fairly through a resettlement quota system for refugees.
However, an EU plan to disperse 40,000 migrants from Italy and Greece to other member countries met with resistance this week. Britain said it would not participate and some eastern states called for a voluntary scheme.
Under plans put forward by the executive European Commission, the bloc would also accept 20,000 refugees from outside the 28-nation grouping and share them around EU states.
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