* Two boats rescued off Sicily, southern Italy
* Italy repeats call for EU to shoulder burden of migrants
* More than 100,000 migrants have reached Italy this year
By Gavin Jones
ROME, Aug 15 Two boat migrants died among almost
1,500 rescued by Italy in the last 24 hours, authorities said on
Friday as the total number reaching Italian shores this year
Italy's interior minister said it was "proud to be saving
lives" of migrants who have been streaming out of North Africa
in rickety boats in increasing numbers for years and without its
efforts the Mediterranean would have become a "lake of death".
But Angelino Alfano repeated Rome's position that the burden
for patrolling the sea and saving migrants from Africa's shores
must quickly pass to the European Union as a whole.
Late on Thursday, 279 migrants on a boat that had departed
from Libya were brought ashore near Ragusa in southeast Sicily,
while, on Friday, 212 were rescued from another boat and brought
ashore off Reggio Calabria at the toe of mainland Italy and
another 1,004 arrived at the port of Naples.
The names and nationalities of the two dead migrants, who
were both men, were not released.
Alfano told reporters Italy has been an example to the world
by rescuing more than 70,000 migrants through its "Mare Nostrum"
(Our Sea) mission of Mediterranean patrols which it began last
The operation patrolling the waters between Africa and
Sicily began after 366 people drowned when their boat capsized
just a mile from the Italian coast.
That tragedy focused international attention on the
desperate risks taken by many migrants who leave the shores of
north Africa, mainly from chaotic Libya, in unseaworthy boats
and die in their hundreds.
Over the past year, most of the migrants have been refugees
fleeing Syria's civil war and Eritrea's harsh military service,
according to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).
The UNHCR estimated last month that around 800 boat migrants
had died in the Mediterranean so far this year, compared with
600 in the whole of 2013 and 500 in 2012.
However, the bodies of many victims are never found, making
calculations of the death toll extremely approximate and
probably grossly under-estimated.
The interior ministry said on Friday the total of all boat
migrants who had arrived in Italy this year now stood at
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)