March 6, 2019 / 9:37 AM / 8 months ago

More than 80 migrants rescued off Italy's Lampedusa

An Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) patrol boat carrying 87 rescued migrants arrives at the AFM's base at Haywharf in Valletta's Marsamxett Harbour, Malta March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

VALLETTA (Reuters) - Eighty-seven migrants in a wooden boat have been rescued off the Italian island of Lampedusa and are due to arrive in Malta on Wednesday, officials said.

Malta’s armed forces said one of its patrol boats took in the migrants late on Tuesday after an Italian vessel sent to rescue them broke down.

Italy has become engaged with a number of spats with Malta - the European Union’s smallest country - over who should take in migrants found in the Mediterranean.

The number of illegal migrants entering the European Union fell sharply for the third year in a row in 2018, the head of the EU’s border control agency Frontex said last month.

But thousands fleeing poverty and conflict across the Middle East and Africa still attempt the perilous crossing. And arrivals have exacerbated political tensions and fueled a rise in far-right, anti-immigration parties across the continent.

Reporting by Chris Scicluna; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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