ROME (Reuters) - Italian ships picked up some 600 migrants and recovered one body on Friday, as European leaders met in Brussels to try to stem the flow of migrants to the continent.
Italy’s coastguard and navy tweeted that they had picked up the migrants from several different vessels. Rescue operations were continuing and the number was likely to rise, a coastguard spokesman said.
“Despite some bad weather and choppy sea conditions, the boats are coming,” the coastguard spokesman said.
More than 1.2 million migrants, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, have arrived in Europe since the beginning of 2015. Arrivals from Libya have risen this week, when three bodies were recovered before the latest death.
“This year we are actually noticing a slight increase in the number of migrants arriving from Libya,” Federico Soda, director of the International Organization for Migration Coordination Office for the Mediterranean, said in the statement.
“As of today, almost 12,000 migrants have landed in Italy, about 2,000 more compared to the number of migrants that arrived in the same period last year,” he said.
European Union leaders are trying to put together an agreement to stem the flow of refugees from Turkey, which is hosting some 3 million Syrians fleeing war.
At the same time, EU leaders met to discuss ways to get Libyan factions to back a national unity government, which would clear the way to clamp down on people smuggling.
Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, editing by Larry King