Migrants rescued: 3,000 make it to safety off Libya coast on Saturday

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In all, 35 rescue operations were launched during day, with 15 of them still underway as night fell

Migrant hands baby from wooden boat to rescuer of Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station during rescue operation off the coast of Libya on Saturday (Reuters)
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Monday 17 April 2017 8:16 UTC
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The Italian coastguard and other boats rescued about 3,000 migrants from unseaworthy boats off the Libyan coast on Saturday, as good weather pushed the numbers up, a participating NGO said.

In all, 35 rescue operations were launched during the day, with 15 of them still underway as night fell, the coastguard said.

German NGO Jugend Rettet, which took part in the rescue operations on Saturday, said 3,000 people had been plucked to safety during a particularly busy day amid fine Spring weather in the Mediterranean.

On Friday, rescue vessels saved more than 2,000 people from flimsy dinghies. A coastguard spokesman told Reuters that 19 rescue operations by the coastguard or ships operated by NGOs saved a total of 2,074 migrants on 16 rubber dinghies and three small wooden boats.

The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said in a tweet that one teenager was found dead on Friday in a rubber boat whose passengers were rescued by its ship Aquarius. "The sea continues to be a graveyard," MSF said in a Tweet.

On Saturday, the coastguard and five privately run rescue boats plucked migrants from 16 overcrowded dinghies and three wooden vessels packed with people hoping to make a new life for themselves in Europe.

EU's border control agency Frontex has accused donor-funded vessels of doing more harm than good by sailing off Libya and acting "like taxis," and Italian prosecutors have suggested they may have links with traffickers - a charge they have fiercely denied.

Distressing images of African migrants being plucked from heaving seas or the coffin-strewn aftermath of major sinkings have become a regular feature of television news bulletins since the crisis began spiralling out of control four years ago.

So far this year, 666 people have been logged as dead or missing off the Libyan coast.

Throughout last year more than 5,000 people perished, according to the International Organization of Migration