ROME (Reuters) - Rescuers saved around 2,300 migrants from rubber and wooden boats in the central Mediterranean on Thursday, but also recovered two dead bodies, the Italian coastguard said.
As summer approaches, growing numbers of migrants have been attempting the perilous crossing to Europe in rubber dinghies and rickety boats from lawless Libya, where people smugglers operate with impunity.
More than 4,000 people have been plucked from boats in the Mediterranean in the last two days alone, and more than 9,000 in the last eight days.
On Thursday, coastguard vessels, merchant ships and a boat run by the aid group Doctors Without Borders rescued people from 14 rubber dinghies and 4 wooden boats, the coastguard said in a statement. It gave no details on the nationalities of those saved or on the two dead.
The previous day, more than 30 migrants, mostly toddlers, drowned when about 200 people without life jackets fell from a boat into the sea off the Libyan coast before they could be hauled into waiting rescue boats.
The total rescued and brought to Italy so far this year is now well over 50,000, up more than 46 percent compared with the same period in 2016. More than 1,300 have died trying to complete the crossing.
Italy is hosting a meeting of the Group of Seven rich nations in Sicily on Friday and Saturday and is pushing the G7, including the United States, to put migration, the stabilisation of Libya and African development at the top of the agenda.
Pietro Bartolo, a doctor with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) who has been helping migrants brought to Italian shores this week, called on Thursday for the G7 to take concrete steps to ease the crisis.
“These are our children, our mothers and brothers and sisters. I am appealing to G7 leaders heading to Sicily now to end this horrific and preventable killing as soon as humanly possible,” he said in comments released by UNICEF.
Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Hugh Lawson