SALERNO, Italy, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- The Italian Navy reported Monday it had rescued 93,000 migrants thus far this year, attempting to enter Italy by sea. The estimate comes after a weekend in which "over 2,700 people were rescued between Friday and Sunday by boats taking part in the 'Mare Nostrum' operation," the statement said, a reference to the naval deployment begun in October 2013, when two shipwrecks claimed the lives of over 400 people.
Italy is the most convenient place to travel by boat from Northern Africa or the Middle East, in search of asylum from war, poverty or political oppression. Migrants in typically unseaworthy and overcrowded vessels are located in the Mediterranean Sea are transferred to Italian ships and then brought into port, generally to the cities of Salerno or Taranto, or to Lampedusa Island. On Friday and Saturday, over 1,300 people were picked up in the Strait of Sicily, and 20 migrants died and dozens were classified as missing after their boat sank off the coast of Libya.