More than 4,200 migrants trying to reach Europe were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea over the past 24 hours, the Italian Coast Guard said Saturday.
In what was one of the biggest day for rescues in recent years, a total of 4,243 people were saved from fishing boats and rubber dinghies after being found adrift during 22 separate naval operations led by Italy, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and Britain, Reuters reported.
Adding to the growing humanitarian crisis, the Italian Navy on Friday reported 17 dead bodies were found in one of the boats off Libya.
The migrants were taken ashore at Sicily where they will be processed and taken to temporary housing.
Scattered at sea, the migrants face extreme weather changes, hunger, thirst and violence while crammed aboard the flimsy vessels.
In April, about 800 migrants drowned off the coast of Libya when their 20-meter-long fishing boat capsized and sank, Reuters reported.
Fleeing war, poverty and persecution in Africa and the Middle East, the migrants are trying to sail to Europe, where more than 80,000 have landed so far this year. The United Nations says more than 35,000 migrants have arrived in Italy alone since January.
About 1,820 migrants have died or gone missing on the sea route to Europe this year, the International Organization for Migration estimates.