BARCELONA, Spain – The Latest on European migration issues (all times local):
The Italian coast guard says some 1,650 migrants have been rescued at sea in a dozen separate operations in the central Mediterranean.
A total of seven bodies were found in dinghies launched by migrant smugglers. The coast guard coordinated the rescues Saturday from a total of nine rubber dinghies and three small boats, with the aid of coast guard vessels and aircraft, an NGO boat and a European patrol mission.
Libya-based smugglers have been sending sent overcrowded, unseaworthy boats from the north African nation toward Italy. Several hundred thousand asylum-seekers and economic migrants, fleeing conflict or poverty in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, have been rescued at sea over the last few years.
Coast guard officials said the nationalities of the migrants rescued on Saturday weren't immediately determined.
A boat belonging to a Spanish aid organization has rescued 391 migrants attempting the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea.
Laura Lanuza, spokeswoman for Spain's Proactiva Open Arms aid group, says that its ship Golfo Azzurro on Saturday took on board 243 migrants from two smugglers' boats it intercepted in international waters off the coast of Libya.
Lanuza says the migrants included one baby, a pregnant woman and several children.
The aid boat also saved another 148 migrants that it transferred to an Italian coast guard vessel.
Lawless Libya is one of the prime spots for smugglers to launch their unseaworthy boats packed with migrants and refugees. Thousands have perished in recent years attempting the crossing.