POZZALO , Italy, June 30 (UPI) -- Officials said over 5,000 undocumented migrants were rescued as they headed to Italy over the weekend, but about 30 died aboard a ship containing nearly 600 passengers.
The ship, discovered near Sicily, is being escorted by the Italian navy to the port of Pozzallo and is expected to arrive Tuesday. Those who died are believed to have been asphyxiation victims. Their country of origin was not reported.
Undocumented migrants are arriving in Italy in unprecedented numbers, fleeing poverty and violence of the Middle East and North Africa. After about 400 died off the coast of Sicily in ship sinkings in October 2013, the Italian navy involved itself in rescue operations. Reports indicate the navy's "Mare Nostrum" program has saved the lives of about 50,000 migrants.
In dealing with the large number of migrants overwhelming migrant centers, Italy has unsuccessfully sought help from the European Union, and has suggested establishment of processing centers in Africa.