150 refugees are missing in the Mediterranean after their boat capsized in rough seas off the Italian island of Lampedusa

Italian rescue vessels are combing the seas off Lampedusa following the discovery of a capsized boat.

Some 48 refugees were rescued from the vessel, which had been carrying about 200 people.

The boat was found 70km (40 miles) from Lampedusa, which has been struggling to cope with thousands of migrants from Tunisia this year.

Rescuers have spotted 15 bodies at the scene, the AFP news agency reports.

The Italian Coast Guard responded to a distress call from the boat at about 4am local time on Wednesday 6 April.

Italian officials say the rescue was initially hampered by the darkness and bad weather, with a force four gale gusting in the area.

The Lampedusa port authority says the migrant boat probably came from war-torn Libya, judging from its position south-west of the tiny island, Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper reports. The migrants’ nationalities have not yet been established.

Italy and Tunisia agreed measures on Tuesday to stop large numbers of illegal immigrants arriving on Lampedusa from Tunisia, which has been in turmoil since a revolution in January.

Italy says it will give six-month residency papers to some 20,000 migrants already in Italy, but new arrivals will be deported.

Italy has moved many migrants from Lampedusa to the mainland, because the migrants on the island outnumbered locals and overwhelmed the holding facility there. Unhygienic conditions, with dozens of migrants sleeping rough outdoors, created a health risk.