MORE than 700 migrants were rescued from six leaky boats in the sea between Tunisia and Sicily yesterday and four were found dead, the Italian navy said.

More than 400 migrants have died in the Mediterranean this year, as people continue to try to cross into Europe despite bad winter weather in the second year of Europe’s biggest migration crisis since World War Two.

More than 110,000 people, many fleeing poverty and war in Africa and the Middle East, have arrived in Greece and Italy this year, a sharp increase on 2015, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

The navy said one of its ships went to help three boats, recovering 403 survivors and the four bodies. Another ship rescued 219 people from two vessels and a third co-ordinated the rescue of 105 migrants from their sinking boat.

Bad weather cut the number of people arriving last month in Greece, the main gateway to Europe for migrants, but the number was still nearly 40 times higher than in the previous January, European Union border agency Frontex says. Italy is calling for shared funding, including issuing EU bonds, for a common policy to manage external borders and cope with the refugee crisis.