Italy migrants: EU vessels ever closer to Libyan waters

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Media captionThe BBC's Matthew Price is shown where the Italian naval ships patrol in the Mediterranean Sea

After loading up supplies in Augusta, Sicily, we were due to head south to an area between Lampedusa and Malta but the command came through to head south-east instead, towards Crete - where a merchant vessel had picked up dozens of migrants and was requesting military help.

Those people are in addition to 315 who just arrived in Lampedusa on their own boat - mainly women, with 20 children. And a tanker from Kuwait arrived in Augusta overnight carrying 356 people that it rescued at sea.

Adding up all the numbers we've been given, I think more than 2,000 people have been picked up in the last day or two.

The Italian operation is difficult. It's run by an admiral of the Italian navy, and now involves ships pushing ever closer to the Libyan mainland largely because with central control in Libya collapsing, there's no help from there for any boats that get into trouble.

One of the last rescues, in which 10 bodies were pulled out of the water while 39 people were saved, took place just 40 nautical miles from Libya.

Captain Martino Baldari is in charge of the Etna - which can hold under normal circumstances a maximum of 300 people.

On this mission they've taken more than 1,000 migrants as well. So it's stretching him and his ship.