The Italian Coast Guard and other commercial vessels joined forces to rescue more than 5,800 migrants off the Libyan coast over the weekend, the authorities announced Sunday, adding that they had also recovered 10 bodies from the region. The latest rescue operation comes as smugglers take advantage of calm weather to send ships full of migrants across the Mediterranean Sea.
The rescue operators picked up the migrants from wooden and rubber boats in 17 separate operations using Italian and French ships, the BBC reported, adding that an Italian ship landed nearly 900 migrants in Sicily early on Monday. The total number of people rescued is likely to rise as many more migrants are expected to cross the sea.
In another incident on Sunday, three migrants died and 31 were rescued when a boat heading toward Europe sank off Egypt's coast, the Egyptian state media reported.
In one of the incidents on Sunday, authorities rescued 311 people, including 16 children, who were saved from a fishing boat in the smugglers' fleet, the Associated Press (AP) reported, adding that the Italian Coast Guard was aided by a tug and merchant ship.
In 2014, more than 170,000 people illegally crossed the Mediterranean and more than 3,200 died in the attempt. Ten times more people have reportedly died since January this year compared to the same period last year.
Taking advantage of calm seas due to the change of seasons in the Mediterranean, smugglers send more migrants in dangerously overcrowded boats on a journey of more than 300 miles. The shaky boats often capsize and lose power in the middle of the perilous journey.
Last month, as many as 700 people died after a boat carrying migrants capsized in the Mediterranean. The incident took place just outside of Libyan territorial waters near the Italian island of Lampedusa. Philip Hammond, the U.K.’s foreign secretary, said after the incident that authorities need to identify and tackle human traffickers to deal with the mounting deaths of migrants attempting to make their way into Europe.
Recently, European leaders agreed to triple the European Union’s funds for search and rescue operations. The leaders also threatened to target smugglers' boats with military strikes.