Italian coastguard said about 3,500 migrants have been rescued in Mediterranean between Italy and Libya on Saturday.
The privately funded Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and Italian coastguard coordinated the operation that saved the migrants from five wooden fishing boats, while the rescue operation continues as the authorities said at least seven more vessels were detected at the sea.
The coastguard found the ships after picking up distress calls via satellite phone and so far rescued 3,480 migrants 72 kilometres (45 miles) off Libyan coast, while there wereno casualties, according to initial reports.
Italian, Irish, and German ships are participating in the operation alongside a MOAS ship.
MOAS said its ship Phoenix rescued 372 migrants, most of whom are from Eritrea.
Italian navy said there were 316 migrants on board of one of their boats and 475 on another, which included seven pregnant woman.
UN refugee agency said 46,500 refugees have arrived in Italy by sea this year, as the Italian government estimates the number to reach 200,000 at year’s and, 30,000 more than 2014.
In April, about 800 people died when a migrant boat capsized in Mediterranean in the worst maritime disaster since World War II, triggering an increase in rescue efforts by Europeans.
At least 1,800 migrants are thought to be killed trying to cross the sea from Libya to Europe so far this year.
Conflicts and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa caused the number of people who are trying to flee their countries to rise.
European Union is planning to increase security precautions against human smugglers to prevent the migrant influx, as an investigation by an Italian court suggest the smugglers make $89,000 on average for each boat.