By Gareth Davies
Horrifying photographs showing pregnant women and children among dead migrants found in a rubber dinghy has shone a light on the grim reality of the desperate scramble to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.
A Spanish charity found 167 migrants alive and 13 dead in yet another rescue operation involving rubber boats crossing the deadly stretch of sea, the Daily Mail reported.
More than 2200 migrants have died trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean so far this year according to the International Organisation for Migration - meaning on average 10 people a day die making the journey.
The latest grim salvation mission was 24km off the coast of Sabratha in Libya and the migrants on board were said to be sub-Saharan and the failed journey resulted in more than a dozen deaths.
As some migrants' corpses lie naked in the middle of the dinghy, others can be seen in the pictures sitting around in life-jackets waiting to be rescued.
The European Union has extended the mandate of its naval operation targeting migrant smuggling in the Mediterranean until the end of 2018 and tasked it with monitoring illegal oil trafficking from Libya.
Operation Sophia, which has naval ships and aircraft monitoring the Mediterranean, aims to disrupt smuggling networks and train Libya's coastguard as a way of stemming the flow of desperate migrants attempting the risky crossing from Libya to Italy in unseaworthy boats.
The onset of warm weather has seen a surge in migrants boarding boats for the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, putting pressure on rescue services.
Italy's coastguard said more than 8,000 migrants had been rescued off the coast of Libya in a 48-hour period last month.
Most were young people from Cameroon, Sudan, Mali and Senegal, said Libyan navy spokesman General Ayoub Qassem, and were found crammed aboard a makeshift rubber dinghy.
Migrants intercepted or rescued by Libya's coastguard are usually held in detention centres until they are sent home.
But many become prey to extortion and abuse at the hands of human traffickers, who have exploited years of chaos in Libya to boost their lucrative but deadly trade.
More than 90,000 migrants have landed on Italy's shores since January, a 14-percent rise on the same period last year.
Libya's UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has appealed to Italy to send ships into Libyan territorial waters to help combat human trafficking, Rome said on Wednesday.
Sarraj 'sent a letter requesting the Italian government provide the technical support of Italian naval units in the joint struggle in Libyan waters against human traffickers,' Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said.
Gentiloni said the ministry of defence was considering the request and "the options will be discussed with the Libyan authorities and the Italian parliament".
Should Italy respond positively, "as I believe is necessary, it could be a very important development in the fight against people trafficking," he added.
The Italian PM was speaking after a meeting in Rome with Sarraj, the head of the Government of National Authority (GNA), based in the capital Tripoli.
The move would doubtless help cut down the number of migrant boat departures from the coast of crisis-hit Libya and ease the strain on Italy, which has struggled to house the many thousands of people rescued at sea.
Sarraj admitted "we need to do more so that our coast guard can fight illegal immigration and ensure that we have advanced technologies to control our coasts".