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Freedom at a price: Thousands rescued trying to reach Italy from north Africa

Reaching Italy at any cost: at least nine migrants die and 5,629 are rescued from the Mediterranean in three days, prompting urgent calls for international help.

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Freedom at a price: Thousands rescued trying to reach Italy from north Africa

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At least nine migrants drowned on Sunday (April 12) while trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya. Over 144 people were rescued by the Italian coast guard, according to authorities.

During the course of the weekend (April 10-12), some 5,629 migrants from 22 boats were saved in the same stretch of sea, the United Nation’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says.

Recovery operations are underway, with some 4,000 people still in rescue boats off the Italian coast, according to the UN.

Fine weather is believed to have been the prompt for a higher-than-normal number of boats leaving the north African coast.

The flurry of activity has prompted the UN to urge Europe to help Italy cope with the influx of people.

The latest figures are likely to increase pressure on the European Union to reassess its policies regarding maritime rescue operations in the Mediterranean, following cutbacks in autumn 2014.

EU officials are expected to announce an overhaul of the body’s policies in May 2015.

In the first quarter of 2015, 480 people died attempting to cross the water to Italy, compared to 50 in the same period the year before, the International Organisation for Migration announced on Friday.