Italy rescues around 1,000 migrants at sea, one dead

(Reuters) – Italian and merchant ships rescued around 1,000 migrants from three overcrowded skiffs near the coast of Libya and found one dead body, Italy’s coast guard said.

The migrants sent out a distress call by satellite phone on Friday and were being taken to ports in Sicily, the coast guard added in a statement, without giving details of their nationalities.

Two other inflatable boats carrying 73 people — identified as Syrians, Kurds and Somalis — were intercepted by police off the Italian coast near Puglia, according to a separate statement from the police. Two Albanian smugglers were arrested in the operation.

Refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa regularly risk the hazardous journey across the Mediterranean, often between Libya and Sicily, to reach the European Union.

Around 3,500 are estimated to have drowned last year when more than 170,000 migrants managed to reach Italy by sea…