At least 3,700 migrants have been rescued from boats near the coast of Libya, as more rescue operations were expected during the day as people smugglers took advantage of calm seas, Italy’s coast guard said.
All of those rescued on Saturday an early Sunday were being brought back to Italian shores, a spokesman for the coast guard said, and some reached Lampedusa, Italy’s southern most island, during the night
The nationalities of those rescued had not yet been determined, the official added.
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from Misrata, said Libyan coast guard vessels had saved about 500 people on five boats just off the coast between the towns of Al Khoms and Misrata.
Those on board the boats are being brough back to Libya, she said.
Earlier, a French ship sent to boost EU migrants patrols in the Mediterranean rescued about 220 people off the Libyan coast and handed them over to Italian authorities, officials said.
The migrants, who were reportedly mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa, were brought to the Italian island of Lampedusa.
The migrants had been on board three boats, the authorities said, adding that two suspected smugglers were caught and will be handed over to Italian police.
The French patrol boat “Commandant Birot” was sent on Tuesday to reinforce the EU’s Triton surveillance operation after a series of migrant tragedies in which nearly 5,000 have drowned since the start of the year.
Two weeks earlier, a fishing boat in which smugglers had crammed an estimated 800 people capsised in what is the largest known loss of life in a single boat accident involving migrants trying to reach Italian shores.
There were only 28 survivors. The tragedy prompted a humanitarian outcry and a European Union pledge to boost rescue efforts.
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