A boat carrying illegal immigrants has capsized on its way from Libya to Italy in the Mediterranean Sea, leaving at least nine people dead.
Italian coastguards recovered nine bodies and saved 144 of the passengers.
However, the exact number of the passengers on board the boat and the nationalities of the undocumented immigrants are still not known.
On Sunday, the Italian Coastguard reported to have rescued a total of 2,782 people over the weekend. On Saturday, Italian authorities reported that coastguards had rescued another 978 migrants, and had recovered the body of one immigrant.
Humanitarian organizations say there has been a recent surge in the number of the immigrants making the deadly journey across the Mediterranean Sea from different routes into the EU as weather and sea conditions improve with the coming of spring.
Reports say most of the immigrants hail from Syria and the Horn of Africa and seek to head for the EU through Italy.
Some sources say the number of the immigrants entering the EU illegally almost tripled in 2014, reaching up to 276,000. Humanitarian groups cite the continuous threat of unrest and hardships in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia as the cause of the high-risk migration.
Libya: A preferred departure point
Since the 2011 ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, and the collapse of law and order in the country, the North African state has become the preferred departure point for human trafficking to the EU.
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 3,200 people died in 2014 alone in the Mediterranean Sea between North Africa and Italy’s Lampedusa. The route has been described by the organization as the world’s deadliest migrant route.
Migration charities say as many as 20,000 people may have died trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea in the last two decades.
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