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Over 4,000 migrants rescued off Libyan coasts: Italy's coast guard

Some 4,400 migrants were rescued off the Libyan coasts on Saturday, the Italian coast guard said on Sunday.

It appeared one of the biggest operation carried out so far by naval multinational forces involved in the European Union (EU) Triton rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea, according to local media.

Italy's navy ships and coast guard patrol boats, together with at least two other vessels from Norway and Ireland, carried out 22 rescue operations overall to pick up the migrants, who were sailing aboard overcrowded crafts and inflatables, Italian authorities added.

A military aircraft was also involved in the saving operations.

No casualties were reported in the operations, which had been launched after several distress calls were received, the coast guard added.

Two major missions on Saturday were carried out by Italian navy vessels Fiorillo and Diciotti, which rescued 432 and 507 people respectively crammed aboard two wooden crafts at risk of sinking off the coasts of Libya, Italian authorities said.

Three other migrant boats were signaled in the waters of the Canal of Sicily between Italy and Libya on Sunday morning, and three merchant vessels were asked to approach to the area to provide first aid, according to the coast guard in Rome coordinating the operation.

A first group of 506 rescued people were brought to the Sicilian port of Augusta on Sunday. Some 132 women and 92 minors were among these migrants, who were believed to be mostly refugee-seekers from Eritrea.

Ninety of them were put in confinement, as Italian health authorities suspected cases of scabies among them.

Some 548 other rescued migrants were expected to arrive in the Sicilian capital Palermo on Monday morning.

The EU has been struggling to cope with a record influx of refugee seekers and migrants since the beginning of the summer, as the number of people seeking refuge or better life conditions in Europe through the dangerous journey in the Mediterranean has much increased.

So far this year, more than 2,300 people have died in the attempt to reach Europe by boat, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Some 104,000 migrants have arrived since January in Italy from the Middle East, African and south Asian countries. Last year, the county had seen an influx of over 170,000 people.

[Source: Xinhua, Rome, 23Aug15]

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