Around 6,5000 migrants have been rescued off the Libyan coast in what the Italian coastguard has described as one of its busiest days in recent years. Migrants from Eritrea and Somalia jumped off their make-shift vessels which had left the north African country and made their way towards rescuers on Monday (29 August).

The Italian coastguard wrote on Twitter that vessels from Italy, humanitarian organisations and the EU's border agency Frontex were part of 40 rescue operations about 20km (12 miles) off the Libyan town of Sabratha, which "saved 6,500 migrants".

The migrants were in overcrowded vessels that were not seaworthy but at least had enough fuel to reach waiting rescuers, the Associated Press reported. The day previous, more than 1,100 migrants were rescued in the same area.

The UN refugee agency said that the total number of arrivals in Italy this year so far was around 105,000, most of whom came from Libya whose instability makes it a hub for people traffickers.

Migrants from Eritrea
Migrants from Eritrea on a wooden vessel in a rescue operation by the Spanish NGO Proactiva, off the Libyan coast on 29 August. A day later, the Italian coastguard carried out 40 rescue operations in the Mediterranean and saved 6,500 people Reuters

The total number of arrivals in Italy this year, prior to Monday's rescues, was at around 105,000, according to the UN refugee agency, with the majority having left from the coast of Libya.

More than 3,000 migrants have died at sea while trying to reach either Greece or Italy since the start of 2016, an increase of some 50 per cent on the same period in 2015. Last year, more than 1m migrants arrived in Europe.

The International Organisation of Migration (IOM) says around 275,000 migrants are in Libya waiting to travel to Europe.