Several police officers, below, wait outside a fishing boat with around 500 migrants in the early hours of Saturday March 11, 2023, in the port of Crotone, southern Italy. (AP Photo/Valeria Ferraro)

ROME (AP) — Several Italian Navy and Coastguard vessels carried hundreds of rescued migrants ashore on Saturday, while elsewhere in the Mediterranean, thousands of migrants overflowed from a shelter on a small resort island .

The influx of migrants arriving by sea came after the right-wing Italian government launched a campaign against human traffickers two days earlier.

The coastguard said in a statement that the overcrowding of two boats and unfavorable sea and weather conditions had complicated rescue operations which began on Friday in the Ionian Sea off Calabria.

A 310ft (94m) coastguard vessel picked up 584 migrants, while two smaller coastguard motorboats loaded 379 and then transferred them to an Italian navy vessel bound for Augusta, a port in eastern Sicily, while migrants take shelter in Calabria. were filling up quickly.

Meanwhile, a boat carrying 487 people, intercepted on Friday by Italian vessels some 60 nautical miles (112 kilometers) off Crotone, Calabria, was rescued by two coastguard boats and a police boat from the borders. The migrants disembarked in the port of Crotone before dawn on Saturday.

It was a beach in Cutro, a town south of Crotone, where survivors and bodies were found on February 26 after a wooden boat, full of migrants who had left Turkey a few days earlier, swamped. crashed into a sandbar.

The official death toll from the sinking rose to 76 on Saturday, with the body of a young girl being the last to be found at sea, according to the Italian news agency ANSA. Eighty passengers survived the wreckage, but many more were missing and presumed dead.

Italian prosecutors are investigating whether authorities should have quickly launched a rescue operation after a patrol plane operated by Frontex, the European Union’s border protection agency, spotted the wooden boat hours before that dozens of them are torn to pieces meters (yards) from the beach.

Some 5,000 people, marching behind a person carrying a cross made from the wreckage of the ship, joined a procession to Cutro beach on Saturday, demanding greater efforts to rescue migrants at sea.

The UN migration agency estimates around 300 people have died this year, or are missing and presumed dead, after trying to cross the dangerous central Mediterranean route.

The Turkish Coast Guard said on Saturday that its staff had rescued 11 migrants off the Turkish province of Aydin after their dinghy burst and began to fill with water. The bodies of five people have been recovered, while the search for other survivors and possible victims continues, the coast guard said in a statement.

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