ROME – Italian Coast Guard vessels working alongside several NGOs over the weekend rescued more than 3,000 migrants from the stretch of water separating Italy’s southern coastlines from the African continent, officials told EFE on Monday.
Italy’s Coast Guard corps said 48 rescue operations had been conducted in the Strait of Sicily – the channel of Mediterranean Sea between the Italian island of Sicily and Tunisia, in North Africa.
However, figures could yet rise because two new operations were ongoing early on Monday, the Coast Guard said.
The actions were part of the European Union collaborative maritime rescue program, dubbed EUNAVFOR Med, and utilized the efforts of several NGO boats.
One ship belonging to Italian coastguards, the Dattilo, rescued some 1,477 people alone.
Another vessel, commanded by the SOS Mediterranee NGO and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) saved another 946 late on Saturday.
Around 15,852 migrants have been rescued from this body of water so far in 2017, signifying a 67 percent increase for the same period year-on-year.
The Italian government estimated that 250,000 migrants would attempt to make it to Italy’s shores this year.
Many of the migrants seek refuge from unrest and conflict in sub-Saharan African nations.
The boats used to cross the Mediterranean Sea are often woefully equipped, overcrowded and dangerous.