Italy says rescue vessels operating off the coast of Libya pulled more than 2,500 migrants to safety Monday, and says their numbers are rising as Mediterranean weather improves.
The Italian Coast Guard said a full 2,000 of the migrants were pulled from 14 dinghies and a single larger boat. A statement said Irish and Maltese naval craft — part of an international force seeking to curb mass drownings at sea — rescued hundreds of others and that a passing cargo ship also joined the rescue effort.
The United Nations says more than 30,000 migrants — most of them from sub-Saharan Africa — have been pulled from the Mediterranean and brought to refugee centers in Italy so far this year.
Humanitarian officials say the sea route from Libya to Italy has now become the main passage for migrants heading for Europe after a recent deal between the European Union and Turkey dramatically reduced the flow of refugees from the Turkish coast to Greece.