Some 6,500 migrants were saved off the Libyan coast in 40 separate rescue missions on Monday, the Italian coast guard said on Twitter, in one of the largest influxes of refugees in a single day so far this year.
The migrants were packed on board scores of boats, many of them flimsy rubber dinghies that become dangerously unstable in high seas. Most were believed to be Africans.
Data from the International Organization for Migration released on Friday said around 105,000 migrants had reached Italy by boat so far in 2016, many of them setting sail from Libya. An estimated 2,726 men, women and children have died over the same period trying to make the journey.
About 1,100 migrants were rescued from boats in the Strait of Sicily on Sunday as they tried to reach Europe, the coast guard said. More refugees were expected to set sail this week because of favourable weather conditions.
Italy has been on the front line of Europe’s migrant crisis for three years, and more than 400,000 have successfully made the voyage to Italy from North Africa since the beginning of 2014, fleeing violence and poverty.