ROME - The Italian navy said on Monday it had rescued over 2,700 migrants from boats attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa over the weekend, and recovered two bodies off the coast of Libya.
"Over 2,700 people were rescued between Friday and Sunday by boats taking part in the 'Mare Nostrum' operation," it said in a statement, referring to a large-scale naval deployment that was begun after twin shipwrecks in October in which over 400 migrants died.
The bodies were recovered on Sunday, the navy said on its Twitter feed, without giving any further details. Some 93,000 boat immigrants have been plucked from rickety vessels in the Mediterranean since the start of the year, as traffickers take advantage of calm summer seas to make an increasing number of crossings to Europe from Africa.
The recent arrivals include 1,300 people picked up between Friday and Saturday in the Strait of Sicily and transferred on to a frigate, which was transporting them on Monday to the port of Taranto in southern Italy. Another frigate was bringing 227 people - including 40 women and 95 minors - to shore, while another 1,200 immigrants are expected to arrive on Tuesday in Salerno, south of Naples, the navy said.
More than 20 immigrants died and dozens were declared missing last week after their makeshift boat sank off the Libyan coast.
Hundreds of would-be immigrants die in the dangerous crossing every year, while others are detained by Italian police once they reach the southern EU member's territorial waters or the islands of Sicily or Lampedusa.