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Italy receives distress call from migrant ship carrying 300 people

The International Organization for Migration has received a distress call from a sinking boat in the Mediterranean carrying more than 300 people. At least 20 of those on board have reportedly died.

The Rome office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) received the call for help from one of three boats floating near each other in international waters, spokesman Joel Millman said on Monday.

His colleague in Rome, Federico Soda, said the IOM had contacted the coast guard with the coordinates for the vessels, but "they do not have the assets to conduct these rescues right now."

"The weekend incident has tied up a lot of resources," he said, referring to the latest migrant tragedy late on Saturday. Survivors from the fishing boat which sank off the coast of Libya said some 950 people were on board. Only 28 migrants were rescued.

Emergency EU meetings

Monday's incident came as European Union (EU) interior and foreign ministers

called an emergency meeting

to discuss the most recent migrant tragedies.

Greece last week announced a series of measures to deal with the influx of refugees, but said it was international problem, not only a Greek one. The huge increase comes as a result of people fleeing violence and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a statement on Monday saying

Germany was "appalled"

by the latest shipwreck.

Sunday's disaster followed a week in which two other migrant shipwrecks left an estimated 450 people dead, sparking calls for immediate action.

Number set to exceed 2012 figures

In a separate incident on Monday (pictured above), at least three migrants died after a wooden sail boat ran aground off the Greek Dodecannese island of Rhodes.

"We have recovered three bodies so far - that of a man, a woman and a child," a Greek coast guard official said.

Some 83 people were rescued from the water after their vessel crashed against the rocks near the area of Zefyros, though it was not immediately clear how many migrants were on board the vessel at the time of the accident.

Some 11,000 migrants have been rescued in total since the middle of last week. Current trends suggest that last year's total of 170,000 landing in Italy alone is likely to be exceeded in 2015. About 1,500 migrants have died this year seeking to reach Europe through gateways such as Italy and Greece.

ksb/rc (AFP, dpa)

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