June 23, 2015 / 11:50 AM / 3 years ago

Danish ship rescues more than 200 migrants off Libyan coast

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - A refined product tanker owned by Danish shipping company Torm rescued more than 200 migrants off the coast of Libya on Sunday and took them to Italy at the request of the Italian coastguard, the company said.

The tanker picked up 222 migrants from two distressed boats off Zawiya, a coastal region west of Tripoli, and deposited them at Port Reggio Calabria, on the southern tip of mainland Italy, on Monday, the company said.

Migrant rescues by commercial boats are increasingly common in Mediterranean waters as more and more people leaving the Middle East and Africa try to cross the Mediterranean to Europe this year, often on unsafe vessels.

Just under 2,000 migrants have died trying to make the crossing in boats so far this year, compared to about 425 in the same period a year ago.

Denmark’s Maersk Line, the world’s largest container shipping company, said on Tuesday it had conducted six rescues so far this year in the Mediterranean involving over 2,200 refugees. A fellow A.P. Moller-Maersk unit, Maersk Tankers, said it had rescued another 750 people so far this year.

European Union leaders agreed in April to boost naval search mission in the Mediterranean after a boat sank, killing as many as 900 migrants off the coast of Libya.

Reporting by Sabina Zawadzki; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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