ROME – Some 2,500 Italy-bound migrants were rescued from 17 boats trying to make the Mediterranean crossing from North Africa, the Italian navy said Friday.
All of the vessels assigned to the Mare Nostrum task force remain deployed in an ongoing operation, the navy said in a statement.
The San Giorgio rescued a total of 998 migrants, more than a third of them women and children, from five different boats Thursday night.
Another 400 migrants were collected by the frigate Orione.
A shortage of vessels forced Mare Nostrum units to transfer more than 600 migrants to passing freighters pending the arrival of additional ships to transport the travelers to Italian ports.
The number of migrants reaching Italy in the first five months of this year – 39,538 – is not far short of the 2013 total of 43,000.
Italy’s interior minister, Angelino Alfano, said Thursday that the European Union must aid Rome in dealing with the flood of migrants.
Italy “alone cannot pay for the instability in Libya,” he said during a visit to Luxembourg.
Rome initiated the Mare Nostrum operating following an Oct. 3, 2013, shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa that left 366 migrants dead.
Since then, Mare Nostrum has rescued 27,790 immigrants at sea, including 3,034 minors, according to the Italian Defense Ministry.
The operation is costing Italy 300,000 euros ($409,000) a day, not counting the expense of food, shelter and care for the migrants.