Two-year-old girl dies in migrant shipwreck off Lampedusa

ROME (Reuters) -A two-year-old girl died and eight people were reported missing following a migrant shipwreck on Monday near the island of Lampedusa, Italy's foreign minister said.

Lampedusa sits in the Mediterranean between Tunisia, Malta and the larger Italian island of Sicily and is a first port of call for many migrants seeking to reach the EU.

"We rescued 42 people. But a two-year-old girl unfortunately died on the rescue vessel shortly before arriving at port," Antonio Tajani said on Tuesday in the lower house of parliament.

Eight people are missing according to survivors' accounts, Tajani said, adding that rescue boats and helicopters were still searching for them.

In a separate statement, the coast guard said "40 people and a lifeless girl" were picked up by patrol boats late on Monday, from a rocky Lampedusa cliff on which they were stranded.

Resuscitation attempts on the girl failed, it added.

The Central Mediterranean sea crossing from North Africa to Italy or Malta is one of the world's most dangerous migration routes.

According to the United Nations' International Organization for Migration (IOM), almost 2,200 people died or went missing in the year to date while attempting this journey.

Two more Lampedusa migrants were rescued from another cliff by two fishermen, Italian media reported, while AGI news agency said two children were among those unaccounted for.

Sergio Scandura, a veteran correspondent based in Sicily who specialises on the topic, said 12 migrant vessels landed on Monday in Lampedusa, including a large one with 576 people, bringing the daily total to 1,087 people.

The figure is considerable for a small place like Lampedusa, but pales in comparison with a peak in September, when the island was overwhelmed with more than 11,000 arrivals in a week.

Italy is experiencing a surge in sea migration, with 150,777 arrivals so far this year, compared to 94,343 in the same period of 2022, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.

The most common countries of origin among incoming sea migrants are Guinea, Tunisia, Ivory Coast and Bangladesh, ministry data indicated.

(Reporting by Federico Maccioni and Alvise Armellini, editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Alexandra Hudson)