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Italy rescues 550 migrants and two dead bodies in Med

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 Italy rescues 550 migrants and two dead bodies in Med
SOS Mediterranée rescued 193 migrants on Friday. Photo: SOS Mediterranée
09:02 CET+01:00
Around 550 migrants making the perilous crossing to Europe were rescued from the Mediterranean on Friday, with two bodies also recovered, the Italian coastguard said.
The migrants were picked up from four inflatable dinghies by coastguard vessels as well as an Italian naval ship, an NGO boat and a merchant vessel.
"Around 550 migrants have been rescued so far from the central Mediterranean in four rescue operations," the coastguard said in a statement.    
It was an SOS Mediterranée boat which recovered the two bodies on one of the dinghies, while rescuing 193 other people, the NGO said in a tweet.
The Italian coastguard said that rescue efforts were ongoing "despite difficult weather and sea conditions."
In recent years Italy has been on the front line of migrants arriving across the Mediterranean and has been pushing for agreements with governments in North Africa to facilitate returns.
People-smugglers have exploited the chaos in Libya since the 2011 uprising that overthrew dictator Moamer Kadhafi to traffic migrants in boats to Italy 300 kilometres (185 miles) away.
According to the Italian interior ministry, over 180,000 migrants landed in Italy last year, an annual record.
The UN has said more than 5,000 people died in 2016 trying to cross the Mediterranean, most of them on the Libya-Italy route.
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