Rome: Some 500 migrants were rescued in seven operations launched over the weekend in the Mediterranean, the Italian coastguard said.
A spokesman told AFP on Sunday that four of the rescue operations had already wound up but the others were ongoing.
“Saturday was quiet on the whole but now there is further movement,” he said. “We have had several interventions — one by a ship belonging to (medical charity) MSF, two coastguard units as well as an Italian naval ship and a ship belonging to EU Navfor Med,” he said.
The EU Navfor Med is a military operation launched at the end of June to identify, capture and dispose of vessels and rescue migrants undertaking risky journeys in a desperate bid to try and get to Europe from war-ravaged Syria and other trouble spots.
The mission is equipped with four ships, including an Italian aircraft carrier, and four planes. It is manned by 1,318 troops from 22 European countries.
A German frigate named Werra and an MSF (Doctors Without Borders) ship rescued 140 people from a giant dinghy on Saturday afternoon, according to an AFP photographer.
The migrants mainly came from the west African countries of Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone and left Libya three days earlier. They were rescued about 80 kilometres off the Libyan coast.
EU leaders have agreed to boost aid for Syria’s neighbours, including one billion dollars through UN agencies, in a bid to mitigate the refugee influx into Europe.
Some 500,000 people have come to Europe so far this year, the International Organization for Migration says, many of them taking perilous journeys across the Mediterranean on inflatable dinghies.
More than 2,800 people have died or disappeared making the crossing since January.