Italian coastguard rescues over 6,000 refugees in one day

The refugees were rescued from 39 overcrowded boats including rubber dinghies some 20 nautical miles off the coast of Libya.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A refugee is rescued from the Mediterranean Sea by a member of Proactiva Open Arms NGO some 20 nautical miles north off the Libyan coast on October 3, 2016.

About 6,055 refugees were rescued on Monday as they tried to reach Europe on 39 boats, one of the highest numbers in a single day, Italy's coastguard said.

The coastguard said nine refugees, including a pregnant woman, had died before the rescue mission had commenced.

Their corpses were found on the vessels.

The coastguard coordinated the rescue of the boats, most of which were overcrowded rubber dinghies in a mission that occurred three years to the day after 366 people died in the sinking at Lampedusa, Italy that first alerted the world to the Mediterranean refugee crisis.

A refugee hangs from a boat as they wait to be rescued as they drift in the Mediterranean Sea some 20 nautical miles north off the coast of Libya on October 3, 2016.

"It is unacceptable that in 2016 these people have no other choice than to embark on these incredibly dangerous sea journeys," said MSF coordinator Nicolas Papachrysostomou.

Two women and a child had to be evacuated for medical treatment after suffering severe burns caused by spilled fuel during a rescue from a rubber dinghy by a boat operated by Doctors without Borders (MSF).

Just under 200 minors were among those saved from one of the former fishing boats which had some 720 people on board, according to NGO SOS Mediterranee.

Most of the minors were unaccompanied, with nine of them being under five-years-old. 

A child of African origin looks on as she is rescued from a distressed vessel by a member of Proactiva Open Arms NGO in the Mediteranean Sea some 20 nautical miles north of Libya, October 3, 2016.

In the disaster three years ago, a fishing boat packed with some 500 people caught fire and sank rapidly in darkness just off the outlying Italian island of Lampedusa in the night of October 2-3, with 366 of those on board dying. 

According to the International Organisation for Migration, around 132,000 refugees have arrived in Italy since the start of the year and 3,054 have died in the process of seeking refuge.

TRTWorld and agencies