Italy’s coast guard confirmed Sunday that it rescued over 4,400 migrants in a single day, a record-high number, as smugglers capitalized on ideal sea conditions off Libya to launch a whole fleet of overcrowded, unseaworthy vessels.
The Italian coast guard carried out 22 separate rescue operations on Saturday for motorized rubber dinghies and fishing boats, all overflowing with migrants desperate to reach Italy's shores.
The operation entailed close coordination between the Italian coast guard, navy and border patrol along with Norwegian and Irish naval vessels in the area for a European patrol force.
Boats in distress, of which there were many, used satellite phones to call coast guard search and rescue or were spotted by Italian military aircraft patrolling the area.
Already this year some 110,000 migrants have been rescued off Libya and taken into southern Italian ports.
The record numbers have prompted a coordinated European effort to assist countries with vulnerable borders.