ROME, June 27 (UPI) — The Italian navy rescued more than 3,500 migrants adrift on the Mediterranean Sea while traveling from Libya to Europe.
The coordinated effort on Sunday involved Italy’s navy and coast guard, and ships from humanitarian groups and Frontex, the European Union’s border agency. The migrants, in 27 vessels, were picked up 35 miles north of the Libyan coastal city of Sabratha.
The navy said one of its patrol boats, the Bettica, engaged in six rescue operations Sunday and picked up 762 people. One person aboard the boats was found dead.
The migrants are believed to be citizens of West African countries, notably Ghana, Guinea and Liberia. They were taken to several Italian port cities for processing, and it is not known if they will be allowed to stay in Europe.
Libyan smugglers have taken advantage of favorable weather and calm seas to launch boats to Europe. More than 5,000 migrants were collected in the Mediterranean Sea in a single day last week.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported more than 66,000 migrants reached Italy since the start of the year. The pace, Frontex said, is similar to that of 2015.