The Italian navy announced on 29 May that it rescued 217 migrants in an operation lead by its ship Fenice. The navy said it also recovered the bodies of 17 migrants on three boat located off the coast of Libya.
According to the BBC, Italy was able to rescue over 3,300 migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean on Friday alone. The Italian coastguard told reporters that distress calls were made from 17 different boats.
A navy spokesman told Reuters it was too soon to say how the 17 had died and where the rescued migrants would be taken.
Most of the rescues on 29 May occurred off the coast of Libya, with Irish, German and Belgian shops taking part in the operation, Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra reported. While Italy has been forced to deal with the bulk of migrant rescues, European Union leaders have pressed members states to aid in the resettlement of refugees.
The rescue mission is the latest in an ongoing migrant crisis in the Mediterranean, Reuters reported. At least 1,826 migrants have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2015, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
According to estimates by the United Nations, at least 40,000 people have tried to cross the Mediterranean from January to late April of this year. Reuters reported that around 1,800 migrants have either died or are missing.
Many of the migrants have been traced back to the conflict and poverty stricken nations of Syria, Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia.
The BBC noted that the rise in migrants trying to cross have been attributed to the conflict in Libya.