More than 11,000 lives were saved and 38 bodies were recovered in two days of large-scale migrant rescue operations on the central Mediterranean, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Wednesday.
An IOM spokesman in Rome said the rescues took place in the sea stretch between Italy and Libya. "Channel of Sicily: 11,096 migrants recovered in 2 days. 38 corpses recovered (10 Monday, 28 Tuesday)," Flavio Di Giacomo wrote on Twitter.
Separately, the Italian coastguard said it had coordinated 72 rescue missions in the previous two days, which rescued "more than 10,000 migrants." Among them, there were three women who gave birth hours after being saved, the Guardia Costiera said.
The Italian and Irish navies, the EU missions Eunavfor Med and Frontex, private merchant ships and tug boats and several non-governmental organizations, including Doctors Without Borders (MSF), contributed to the rescues.
One of the victims from Monday was another pregnant woman. Her body was taken to the southern port of Reggio Calabria by an MSF boat carrying 417 migrants. Another 1,020 docked in Palermo, 664 in Messina and 725 in Vibo Valentia.
Italy has become in recent months the main landing point for Europe-bound migrants. Most seek to proceed to wealthier northern Europe, but this is getting increasingly harder, as border controls within the EU's passport-free Schengen area have been tightened.
In an interview with Italian news agency Ansa, the leader of Germany's anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD), Frauke Petry, said all European borders, including Italy's, "should be closed to illegal migrants."
She said potential refugees should have their asylum claims processed outside of the European Union.
According to IOM data, last updated Sunday, in the year to date 3,502 migrants died or went missing in Mediterranean sea crossings. There were also 132,069 migrant landings in Italy and 169,188 in Greece, the Geneva-based organization said.