Bodies of five migrants recovered from Italian island of Lampedusa

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By Daniel Bellamy  with Reuters
Bodies of five migrants recovered from Italian island of Lampedusa

The bodies of five women have been recovered on the Italian island of Lampedusa after their boat capsized in bad sea conditions overnight.

Three bodies were retrieved at sea while two more were found on a beach, the Coast guard said, adding that searches were continuing, but that bad weather was complicating the effort.

On Saturday afternoon 149 people, including 13 women and three children, were rescued from their boat as it was sinking.

There are reports that around 20 more migrants are missing at sea.

The ten metre long vessel was reported in distress less than one mile off Lampedusa, the Coast Guard said.

Among the group of mostly Central and West Africans were three women, two toddlers and 24 unaccompanied minors who braved the dangerous crossing in search of a better life in Europe.

On Sunday the captain of the charity rescue ship Open Arms failed to get permission from Italy to disembark 62 African migrants.

But on Sunday afternoon the authorities did evacuate 11 migrants in need of medical assistance whilst the ship was at sea. At least one was suffering from a gunshot wound.

The Italian government has taken a hard line against immigration and has previously resisted attempts by rescue ships to land migrants in its territory.

A prolonged standoff with the Open Arms this summer was only resolved after a court ordered authorities to open a port, allowing 100 migrants to disembark.

There have been nearly 1,000 confirmed deaths on the three main migration routes across the Mediterranean so far this year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Hundreds of migrants have died in recent years trying to make the Mediterranean crossing from northern Africa to Italy.