[WATCH] Over 6,000 migrants rescued off Libya

The Italian coastguard said that about 6,500 migrants have been rescued off Libya

About 6,500 migrants have been rescued off Libya
About 6,500 migrants have been rescued off Libya

About 6,500 migrants have been rescued off Libya, the Italian coastguard said, in one of the biggest operations of its kind to date.

According to the coastguard, 40 separate but co-ordinated rescue missions took place about 20km off the Libyan town of Sabratha.

Video footage taken from the BBC shows migrants, said to be from Eritrea and Somalia, cheering and some swimming to rescue vessels, while others carried babies aboard.


On Sunday more than 1,100 migrants were rescued from boats in the Strait of Sicily on Sunday as they tried to reach Europe, the coast guard said.

The instability in Libya has made the country a hub for people-trafficking.

Monday's operations involved vessels from Italy as well as the EU's border agency Frontex and the NGOs Proactiva Open Arms and Medecins Sans Frontieres.

The migrants had set off in overcrowded vessels unfit for the sea, many of them in flimsy rubber dinghies that become dangerously unstable in high seas, with enough fuel to reach waiting rescuers, AP reported.

Data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) released on Friday said around 105,000 migrants had reached Italy by boat so far in 2016, many of them setting sail from Libya. It is estimated that 2,726 men, women and children have died over the same period trying to make the journey.

The IOM said there are a further 275,000 migrants in Libya waiting to travel.

The Italian coastguard predicted that the favourable weather conditions would encourage migrants to travel on Tuesday.

Overall, about 284,000 migrants have entered Europe so far this year through various transit routes across Africa, Asia or the Middle East.