Italian navy brings hundreds of rescued migrants and 17 bodies to port in Sicily. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) More than 4,200 migrants who were rescued from boats in the Mediterranean arrived in Italian ports on Sunday (May 31) with the latest boatload coming in to the eastern Sicilian port of Augusta. Seventeen bodies were on board an Italian naval vessel which had rescued 454 migrants off the Libyan coast on Friday (May 29). Details of the nationalities of the victims and how they died have not yet been released although Italian media say that they did not drown but were more likely trampled in the rush to secure places on the overcrowded boats. In some of the most intense Mediterranean migrant traffic of the year, a total of 4,243 people were saved from fishing boats and rubber dinghies in 22 operations involving ships from nations including Italy, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and Britain. Migrants escaping war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East this year have been pouring into Italy, which has been bearing the brunt of Mediterranean rescue operations. Most depart from the coast of Libya, which has descended into anarchy since Western powers backed a 2011 revolt that ousted Muammar Gaddafi. Calm seas are increasingly favouring departures as warm spring weather sets in. Last month around 800 migrants drowned off Libya in the Mediterranean's most deadly shipwreck in living memory when their 20-metre long fishing boat capsized and sank. That spurred the European Union to agree on a naval mission to target gangs smuggling migrants from Libya, but a broader plan to deal with the influx is in doubt due to a dispute over national quotas for housing asylum seekers. The EU plan to disperse 40,000 migrants from Italy and Greece to other countries met with resistance this week, with Britain saying it would not participate and some eastern countries calling for a voluntary scheme. Around 35,500 migrants arrived in Italy from the beginning of the year up to the first week of May, the UN refugee agency estimated, a number which has swelled considerably since. About 1,800 are either dead or missing.