ROME (AFP) - Around 318 migrants in distress at sea between Sicily and the coast of Libya were rescued by an Icelandic navy ship taking part in an EU border patrol of the Mediterranean, Italian media reported Saturday.
The ship, the Landhelgisgaeslan, arrived in the evening at the Sicilian port of Pozzallo with the rescued migrants, including 14 children and five pregnant women, who were hospitalised.
Italian police, meanwhile, have identified eight suspected Tunisian traffickers.
According to the reports, the migrants came from 13 different countries: Sudan, Ghana, Morocco, Mali, Mauritanie, Senegal, Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria, Palestine, Eritrea, India and Tunisia.
The conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, especially in Libya which is a key point of departure, have led to an increase in illegal immigrants seeking to enter Europe.
The number of migrants entering the EU illegally in 2014 nearly tripled to 276,000 people compared to 2013, according to the EU borders agency Frontex, nearly 220,000 of them arriving via the Mediterranean.
The United Nations said at least 3,500 people died last year while crossing the sea, making it the deadliest migrant route in the world.