ROME (AP) — Italian coast guard ships and vessels from a multi-nation naval mission and humanitarian organizations rescued at least 2,900 migrants Sunday from 21 boats launched by smugglers from Libyan shores, authorities said.
The coast guard said the rescues were carried out by military vessels from Italy, Spain, Ireland, Britain as well as a boat run by humanitarian personnel.
The Irish naval vessel Le Eithne was involved in at least six of the operations Sunday, rescuing nearly 600 migrants from inflatable rubber dinghies that needed help in the waters northwest of Libya, according to an Irish military statement.
About 100 of the migrants were being brought to the tiny island of Lampedusa, off Sicily. Authorities were determining which larger, southern Italian ports would receive the others on Monday.
Libyan-based smugglers tend to wait out spells of rough seas and then launch many of their boats, either unseaworthy wooden fishing boats or motorized dinghies, when the Mediterranean is calmer.
Satellite phones are used to call for help from the Italian coast guard, which then requests that naval vessels or cargo ships in the area come to the migrants' aid. Some days this year have seen thousands of migrants rescued from many boats.
So far this year, some 60,000 migrants saved by ships in a multi-nation search and rescue mission have been brought to Italian ports.
Many seek asylum from wars or persecution in Africa or the Middle East, and hope to reach families in northern Europe.
Italy wants northern European countries to take in fixed numbers of migrants. EU discussions about Italy's appeal have so far yielded plans for such help on a voluntary basis.