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Three thousand refugees saved off Libya's coast

The coordinated rescue mission constitutes one of the biggest single-day rescue operations to date that did not result in any casualties
The number of refugees hailing from North Africa and the Middle East traveling across the Mediterranean has topped 104,000 this year (MEE)

Italy's coastguard on Saturday successfully coordinated the rescue of around 3,000 refugees off the coast of Libya after receiving distress calls from more than 20 overcrowded vessels, AFP reported.

Remarkably, this constitutes one of the biggest single-day rescue operations to date that did not result in any casualties.

The coastguard said its patrol boats took on board nearly 1,000 people from creaky fishing boats and inflatables that had left Libya overnight on Friday.

At least another 1,000 rescued migrants and refugees headed for Italian ports.

Two navy ships picked up 507 and 432 people from two sinking wooden boats, Italy’s navy said.

In addition to a plethora of other Italian vessels, a Norwegian military ship was also involved in rescue efforts.

A boat owned by Doctors without Borders saved 311 people, including a new-born boy.

Members of Italy’s various conservative parties have become increasingly angry at the government’s handling of the refugee crisis.

"This must be a joke. We are using our own forces to do the people-smugglers' business for them and ensure we are invaded," said Maurizio Gasparri, a senator for Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia party.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigration Northern League, called on the government to park the migrants on disused Italian oil rigs off Libya.

"Help them, rescue them and take care of them: but don't let them land here," he wrote on his Facebook page.

In other news, police in Sicily announced on Saturday that they had arrested six Egyptian nationals on suspicion of people smuggling following the rescue of a stricken boat on 19 August.

Testimony from the 432 migrants on board suggest the vessel had been packed with more than 10 times the number of people it was designed for, with many of the passengers, including a number of women and children, locked below decks.

They had each paid the traffickers $2,200 for the passage from Egypt to Italy, according to statements given to police.

Over 170,000 migrants and refugees from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia landed at Italy's southern ports in 2014 after being rescued in the Mediterranean, while the total for 2015 has already topped 104,000.

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