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More than 3,000 refugees have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy so far this year. (Photo: AP)

New Migration Wave From Libya Forces Single-Day Rescue of 6,500 Refugees

Calm seas lead thousands to attempt treacherous Mediterranean crossing

Nika Knight Beauchamp

Calm seas in recent days have brought a new wave of refugees attempting the treacherous sea crossing from Libya to Italy, forcing the rescue of 6,500 people in 40 separate operations on Monday alone, according to Italy's coast guard.

On Sunday, 1,100 migrants were rescued from sinking boats, the Italian coast guard said.

"The refugees, believed to be mostly from Somalia and Eritrea, were on flimsy rubber dinghies that become highly unstable in high seas," Al Jazeera reports.

The Mediterranean rescue mission of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which took part in the rescue operations on Monday, tweeted heartbreaking photos from the day:

Five-day-old twins were among those rescued, according to MSF, and were immediately airlifted to an Italian hospital upon arrival.

"The Italian coastguard predicted that weather conditions would encourage the departure of further boats on Tuesday," Middle East Eye reports, adding that more than 3,000 people have died attempting the sea crossing from Libya to Italy so far this year—an increase of more than 50 percent from this time last year, according to the International Office of Migration.

Refugees are detained and face dire conditions and human rights abuses in Libya, the Independent notes: "Rights groups say 3,500 [refugees] are being held in around 20 official detention facilities across Libya, with many more detained in informal detention centers run by criminal gangs."

The United States began bombing Libya again and launched a new ground campaign in the country earlier this month, a move widely condemned by antiwar activists and peace groups. It is unclear whether the U.S. offensive in Libya is linked to this latest wave of migration from the country to Europe.

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