ROME: Malta's navy has rescued 90 migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean by boat, providing medical assistance to five women on board.
The migrants sent out a distress call by satellite telephone late Thursday when their boat was 25 nautical miles north of the Maltese island of Gozo, a spokesman for the Armed Forces of Malta said.
Although Gozo lies closest to the Italian island of Sicily, the spokesman said the migrants were nevertheless within Malta's search and rescue zone when they requested assistance, and they were taken to Malta were medical assistance was provided.
The rescue came as the Italian navy picked up over 2,000 migrants trying to reach Europe in one week, as part of an operation launched after two shipwrecks in October, in which hundreds drowned.
On Thursday, Italy arrested three Tunisians and a Moroccan from among the new arrivals for alleged people smuggling.
Driven by an increasingly unstable situation in Libya, and blessed by good weather and calm seas, the number of boats setting off from North Africa has spiked over the past few weeks.