Around 3,000 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean on Saturday while trying to make the journey from northern Africa to Europe, Italian coastguards report.
The people were picked up in more than 20 separate rescue operations involving the Italian coastguard and navy, the EU’s EUNAVFOR mission in the Mediterranean, European Union border agency Frontex, NGOs and merchant ships.
The coastguard gave no details of the nationalities of those rescued.
On the same day, 129 migrants had reported being mugged and stranded on a small boat headed for Europe.
Gunmen are believed to have boarded the vessel and stole the craft’s motor, abandoning them off the Libyan coast – according to the Libyan navy.
So far this year 43,490 migrants have arrived in Europe by sea as of April 26. Within that number, over 1,000 have died or are declared missing.
With an increasing number of migrants making the journey, in inadequate vessels that journey across southern Europe’s perilous moat, the casualty count is increasing. Last month, Spain reported rescuing around 125 migrants in one night.
Politicians in Italy are calling for stiffer measures to tackle people smuggling and there are some suggestions that the those involved in the trade have intensified their efforts ahead of a bolstering of the Libyan coastguard, according to The Telegraph.
The refugees and migrants – many from Nigeria, Senegal and Gambia – are often captured as they head north towards Libya’s Mediterranean coast, where some try to catch boats for Italy.
Along the way, they are prey to an array of armed groups and people-smuggling networks that often try to extort money in exchange for allowing them to continue.
Last month, the IOM said many of them have been held for ransom, kidnapped, made to perform forced labour and, in some cases, sold in markets as slaves.
Should the migrant flow continue at the current rate, it is anticipated that 2017 will set a new record for the number of migrants reaching Italy, exceeding last year when 181,000 people were rescued and brought ashore.