ROME — Profit-hungry smugglers took advantage of calm seas off Libya over the weekend to launch unseaworthy boats, crowded with migrants, toward Italy.
After about 6,000 migrants were rescued from the Mediterranean in dozens of operations coordinated by the Italian Coast Guard on Friday and Saturday, hundreds more migrants were plucked to safety Sunday from dinghies and fishing boats.
The humanitarian group MOAS said Sunday that it had helped several hundred migrants in dinghies and wooden boats over a 24-hour period.
MOAS recovered seven bodies. It also distributed life vests to 1,000 migrants still on smugglers’ boats who are awaiting transfers to the rescue ships that will bring them to southern Italian ports.
Italian news reports say the rescued migrants came from Africa, Syria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and elsewhere.
One rescue ship brought 504 migrants and one corpse to Pozzallo, Sicily, on Saturday and another boat brought about 500 other migrants to Augusta, Sicily. The rest of the migrants were sent to Calabria on the Italian mainland Sunday.
So far this year, about 29,000 migrants, most of them fleeing poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, have arrived in Italy after being rescued by European military ships or private charity organizations.