Hundreds of migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean by the Italian navy and coast guard, but one was found dead during search-and-rescue operations carried out in the past hours, Rai state television said on Sunday.
A total of 302 African migrants as well as the corpse of a person, who was reportedly killed in a shipwreck, were carried to the port of Augusta, a city in southern Sicily Island, according to Rai.
The remains of the dead, who was wearing a live vest, were reportedly recovered in an “advanced state of decomposition” in the waters off Malta’s coast.
The new loss came days after at least 10 people were found dead and dozens were reported to be missing in a shipwreck which occurred off the coasts of Sicily, where the Italian navy managed to rescue 39 migrants.
Italy’s sea patrols are part of a major operation which was started at the end of last year to try to save hundreds of migrants who undertake the crossing from Africa to Europe, of which Italy is considered the easiest gateway, almost every day.
Since the operation was launched following a dramatic wreckage which killed more than 300 migrants in October, the inflow coming especially from Libyan coasts has significantly increased.
According to estimates of the Italian Interior Ministry, around 40,000 migrants have reached Italy’s coasts between January and May 2014, compared to 43,000 who landed in the country during the whole of last year.
Several African suspects have been detained by Italian police on accusations of having organized the perilous journey, sometimes allegedly stopping the engines of packed boats in order to induce a rescue.
Italian Lower House Speaker Laura Boldrini, while visiting a navy ship participating in a surveillance operation in the Mediterranean on Friday, called on the European border agency Frontex to grant bigger contribution in the sea patrols.
The Italian government has repeatedly exposed the unsustainable overcrowded conditions in the country’s migrant centers and appealed for more help from the European Union (EU) in terms of funds and common strategy in facing the emergency.