Italy warns Mediterranean migrant rescues may end

The BBC's Matthew Price saw hundreds of rescued migrants arrive in Sicily

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Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano has warned that a naval operation to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean Sea may have to come to an end without EU intervention.

Speaking in Sicily, he said Italy would not allow people to die but could not continue to patrol Libya's coast.

Shortly after he spoke, a Kuwaiti oil tanker arrived in Sicily carrying another 356 migrants.

The body of a Syrian who had died on the journey was reportedly on board.

At least 39 people drowned some 65 km (40 miles) off Libya at the weekend after an overloaded, inflatable boat capsized while trying to cross to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The Italian navy rescued another 39 people but there are fears the number of people who died is far higher.

Last October, 360 people died when a boat sank off Lampedusa.

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Matthew Price: On patrol with the Italian navy

ITS Etna

We set sail, heading south, to the new front in Italy's immigration crisis.

They called the operation "Mare Nostrum" - Our Sea.

It's taking a toll on the country's finances, and on its immigration centres, which are filling up at an alarming rate.

It's also putting pressure on other European countries to share the burden, but there's increasing political pressure within many of those countries to limit immigration.

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Mr Alfano was speaking in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo, where many of the migrants have been brought in recent months by the Italian navy.

The migrants picked up by the Kuwaiti-registered tanker, al-Salmi, were from Syria, Libya, Egypt, Somalia and Morocco, Italian media reported.

Another 200 migrants were rescued by the Italian navy elsewhere.

The cost of the naval operation and the logistics of tackling a daily influx of refugees has put political pressure on the Italian government.

Malta has also called on the EU to help shoulder the burden.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said sometimes more than 20 boats filled with refugees were making the trip from North Africa, posing humanitarian and logistical problems.

Migration routes map

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