VALLETTA, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Some 90 African refugees have been rescued at sea off Malta by an Armed Forces Malta patrol vessel, a government statement said.
The refugees, including five women, were transferred from their small boat to the patrol vessel at sea, 25 nautical miles off Malta in the western Mediterranean Sea near Italy, on Thursday, the statement said.
The refugees, mostly from Syria, Palestine and the Horn of Africa, were intending to travel to Malta and its neighboring country of Italy via Libya.
This week alone the Italian navy has rescued a total of 4,000 asylum seekers, local media reported.
The figures have increased rapidly as spring has brought fairer weather conditions for sea travel, the media said.
Last year, over 2000 asylum seekers landed on Malta from North Africa, up from 47 in 2010, according to local press reports.