More than 4,000 migrants have been rescued off Libya's coast in 22 separate operations in one day, with rescuers finding 17 people dead aboard a rubber dinghy, the Italian Coast Guard said Saturday.
The rescues, from 13 wooden fishing boats and nine motorized rubber dinghies, took place Friday. In all, 4,243 rescued migrants were being brought to southern Italian harbors, including in Sicily.
Smugglers are reaping millions by overcrowding unseaworthy boats with migrants on Libya's Mediterranean coast to set out for Italian shores. The migrants are fleeing war, persecution or poverty in Africa, the Mideast and elsewhere.
Cargo ships and Irish and German navy vessels helped Italian military craft in Friday's rescues. Italy has demanded its European partners help more with the migrants, who have been coming in huge numbers this year. Last year, Italy rescued some 170,000 migrants at sea.