The Italian navy said that it rescued “100 people, including 17 women and 23 minors, with health checks underway”.
Only a few of the migrants had a lifejacket, the boat's engine had failed and the weather was worsening, leaving them “in imminent danger” a navy statement said.
— Marina Militare (@ItalianNavy) May 30, 2019
The migrants, who sent an SOS signal to Alarm Phone, a volunteer-run Mediterranean rescue hotline, had said that a five-year-old girl on board had perished, but the navy said no one had died.
The navy did not say where the migrants would be taken following the rescue around 90 nautical miles south of Lampedusa.
Alarm Phone, which is operated by German association Watch the Med, said the Italian vessel could have rescued the stricken migrants “nearly a day ago”.
The @ItalianNavy vessel P490 had monitored the boat in distress yesterday already & could have rescued them nearly a day ago. This act of #non-assistance risked the lives of 90 people. Now these survivors have to be brought to a port of safety in #Italy! @refugees #safepassage
— Alarm Phone (@alarm_phone) May 30, 2019
The Maltese navy said earlier that it had rescued 75 migrants found clinging to a tuna pen while trying to make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.
It said in a statement that it had coordinated multiple joint rescue operations in conjunction with the Italian coastguard and “in support of the Libyan coastguard”.
The UN refugee agency said it spoke to the refugees and migrants when they arrived in Malta “exhausted, hungry, and extremely relieved to be on land after three days at sea”.
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Malta has appealed to the EU for help in dealing with the flow of migrants, which its much larger neighbour Italy has begun to turn away. The island of 450,000 people is a common destination for migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa, and a hardline stance from Italy has increased pressure on it.
In Italy, the UNHCR said that two boats carrying a total of 103 migrants arrived on the island of Lampedusa having left Libya three days ago. The UNHCR said that they were “exhausted and cold”.
International Organization for Migration figures show 24,687 migrants have reached Europe so far this year, well below the record of around one million in 2015, and 144,000 last year.