More than 6,000 migrants have been rescued by Italy's coastguard off the coast of Libya in one day. The 6,055 migrants had set off from Libya in 39 boats. Nearly 200 minors, most of whom were unaccompanied, were saved from one of the boats that contained more than 700 people, according to NGO SOS Méditerranée.
At least nine migrants drowned during the rescue operation while others were airlifted to hospital to receive treatment. The mass rescue operation took place around 30 miles north of Libya's capital Tripoli, and the incident occurred as Italy marked the anniversary of a 2013 shipwreck which killed 368 migrants.
Italy was commemorating the first Remembrance Day of a deadly shipwreck that occurred on 3 October 2013. The boat sailed from Misrata, Libya, and capsized off the Italian island of Lampedusa, killing 368 migrants. The 2013 shipwreck highlighted – for the first time – the large-scale numbers travelling to Europe leading up to the 2015 migrant crisis; deemed one of the worst since World War II.
Before the 2013 shipwreck, migrants had been using the Libya-Italy route to seek a better future in Europe. However, after the incident – to prevent such tragedy recurring – the Italian coastguard launched a search and rescue operation which evolved into a multi-national force involving several organisations. Following the 2013 shipwreck, Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said: "There is no miraculous solution to the migrant exodus issue. If there were we would have found it and put it into action."
Between 1 January to 28 September, at least 3,054 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean as they tried to reach Italy from Libya, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The organisation also said some 206,400 migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year.
"It is unacceptable that in 2016 these people have no other choice than to embark on these incredibly dangerous sea journeys," Nicholas Papachrysostomou, coordinator of Doctors without Borders (MSF), was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.
In September, Egyptian rescue workers recovered 170 bodies from the Mediterranean after a migrant vessel carrying at least 600 people capsized off the coast near a village in Beheira province.