July 10, 2008 / 9:25 PM / 10 years ago

Three women die, 183 migrants land in Malta

VALLETTA (Reuters) - Three women, one pregnant, died and 183 migrants were rescued from small boats by Malta’s armed forces on Thursday, the largest influx of migrants so far this year.

A would-be immigrant baby is carried off an Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) Search and Rescue boat at the AFM Maritime Squadron base at Haywharf in Valletta's Marsamxett Harbour July 10, 2008. 183 would-be immigrants were rescued by the AFM in separate incidents on Thursday, when they found themselves in difficulties while on their way to reach European soil from Africa, authorities said. Three corpses were also recovered. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

The armed forces said the migrants were taken to Malta by four Maltese patrol boats and an Italian naval vessel after they were located by patrols or fishermen in waters between Libya and Malta.

They said the three women were found in the sea by a trawler which rescued 25 migrants.

Slideshow (3 Images)

It was the largest number of migrants to arrive on Malta this year. The island has seen 25-50 people arrive almost daily, raising complaints from some residents that the densely populated island of 400,000 people cannot take in more.

Thousands of people, mainly Africans, cross the Mediterranean from Libya every year, often in overcrowded and badly equipped boats, hoping to reach the shores of the European Union in Italy or Malta.

About 1,500 migrants arrived in Malta last year and 700 were repatriated. About 5,000 migrants now live on the island.

Malta has called on European Union states to take in some of the migrants, but the calls have been largely ignored.

Editing by Janet Lawrence

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