The Italian coast guard says it has rescued some 6,000 refugees, who were crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe, in two days.
The coastguard said in a statement that the refugees had been pulled to safety on Friday and Saturday in more than 20 rescue operations involving the Italian navy, European Union border agency Frontex, and several NGOs.
The statement did not specify the nationalities of those rescued.
Meanwhile, the Libyan coastguard also announced that it had picked up around 170 refugees off Tripoli on Saturday but had failed to rescue others “due to a lack of means.”
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there has been 487 refugee deaths in the Mediterranean as of March 2. The figure is higher than the 425 during the first two months of last year.
The Italian Interior Ministry says some 37,000 people, many of them sub-Saharan Africans, have arrived in Italy from Libya since the start of the year, a 30-percent increase compared to a year earlier.
Italy is struggling to host thousands of refugees, who have traveled through the Mediterranean to escape war, persecution or poverty in their home countries. Some Italians are against the decision to settle the refugees in the European country.
Europe has been experiencing an unprecedented influx of refugees over the past months. The asylum seekers flee conflict-ridden zones in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.
Many blame major European powers for the exodus, saying their policies have led to a surge in terrorism and war in the violence-hit regions, forcing more people from their homes.