The Italian Coast Guard is carrying out two large-scale operations to rescue some 1,200 migrants from overcrowded boats off the coast of Sicily.
About 800 people travel on one of the fishing boats, while about 400 people travel on another.
The country’s coast guard has already rescued around 2,000 people in other operations since Friday.
German non-profit organization ResQship said at least two people died during boat crossings over the weekend.
The number of immigrant arrivals in Italy has risen sharply compared to the same period last year, despite the efforts of the right-wing coalition government to clamp down on irregular migration.
The boat carrying 400 people, which is believed to have set off from Tobruk in Libya, was still unassisted late Monday night, according to an unofficial hotline for migrants in distress, Alarm Phone.
She said she raised the alarm with the authorities of Italy, Greece and Malta on Sunday.
A German NGO, Sea-Watch International, said two merchant vessels near one of the ships were ordered not to assist in rescue efforts by Malta while the boat was in Maltese waters. Instead, one of the ships was allowed to supply fuel and water. The Maltese government did not comment on the matter.
Alert Phone said it had been in contact with people on the boat, which is now in Italian waters southeast of Capo Passero. She added that the boat was adrift and was taking water on Sunday. A woman on board said she was without her captain and several people needed medical attention.
The Italian Coast Guard said an operation to rescue the 800 people on the other boat was also underway southeast of Syracuse, but the operation was complicated by overcrowding on board. It was not immediately clear where the boat had set off from.
More boats arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa, one of the main ports of entry for people wanting to reach Europe, over the weekend.
At least two migrants died and about 20 others were missing after their boat sank on Saturday night, Riskship said.
According to the control group Missing Migrants Project of the International Organization for MigrationMore than 26,000 people have died or are missing at sea in the central Mediterranean since 2014.
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