A European Union-led patrol mission against illegal immigration in the Mediterranean began on Saturday, May 17.
Thousands of illegal immigrants arrive on European shores every year
The mission is scheduled to last 23 weeks in a bid to assist and possibly halt the voyage of hundreds of fleeing Africans reaching Europe by boat.
Malta, Italy, France and Germany will be the main EU states participating in the operation contributing various naval and aeronautic assets to cover the region, particularly the strait between southern Italy, Malta and Libya.
The start of this year's mission was postponed by almost a month following initial disagreement over who should take final responsibility for illegal immigrants saved in the search and rescue area off Libya. The North African country has once again refused to participate in the Frontex mission.
On Friday, a group of 28 would-be illegal immigrants were brought ashore to Malta after their boat capsized some 65 nautical miles off the island.
Meanwhile around 450 illegal migrants arrived on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa over the previous 24 hours, Italian media reported Saturday. The migrants, including 26 women and four children, arrived in two boats and were mainly from Africa.