ROME, April 9 (UPI) -- Italian authorities have rescued 4,000 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea in the past 48 hours, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said Wednesday after he met with police and military officers participating in search-and-rescue operations.
“There is no stop to the arrivals, and the emergency is increasingly serious,” he told Italian radio.
Tens of thousands of migrants arrive in Italy annually from North Africa and from African countries torn by war and famine. Many others die attempting the crossing in unsafe and overcrowded boats.
Alfano said 15,000 migrants have arrived on Italian shores since the start of the year, and estimated 300,000 to 5600,000 are ready to depart from Libya, adding, “this is a conservative estimate as confirmed by European (Home Affairs) Commissioner Cecelia Malmstrom.”
Four overcrowded boats, carrying about 1,000 people, were helped by the Italian Navy Tuesday. A patrol vessel and merchant ship rescued another carrying 113 people. In addition, a frigate with 261 aboard was rescued early Wednesday after it issued a distress signal, and Coast Guard vessels rescued a boat with 200 people off the coast of Calabria Tuesday.