3,300 rescued in one day
More than 800 of an estimated 3,300 migrants rescued by the Italian coastguard on Friday have been brought to safety.
They were picked up off one large boat, three smaller ones and 20 rubber vessels.
And they are the lucky ones.
The bodies of seven dead migrants were also recovered.
“They are vulnerable people, especially psychologically,” said Dr Michele Telaro from Doctors Without Borders. “They have lived through very difficult situations and tough experiences. Many have witnessed violence in Libya, or been victims themselves. They are very vulnerable.”
Claims migrant boat was attacked
Libyan naval forces have denied accusations by a rescue organisation that one of their vessels attacked a migrant boat packed with around 150 people.
The incident is alleged to have happened before the planned start of training next week of up to 100 Libyan coast guard members as part of the EU anti-smuggling mission, Operation Sophia.
Germany-based Sea-Watch, one of several non-governmental organisations operating vessels off the coast of Libya, said on Friday a speedboat marked “Libyan Coast Guard” swooped in as they went to the aid of an overcrowded rubber boat in the early hours.
At least one man from the Libyan vessel jumped into the rubber boat.
A Sea-Watch spokesman said he beat the migrants with a stick, causing mass panic.
Part of the rubber boat deflated, it is claimed, toppling most of the occupants into the sea.
No firearms were used.
The Sea-Watch crew says it recovered four bodies but saw others in the water.
Of an estimated 150 people on board, an estimated 120 have been rescued.
Sea-Watch spokesman Ruben Neugebauer says the position of their ship, the Sea-Watch 2, was not in Libyan waters.
“This was an attack on our rescue operation. We were engaged already with the boat to hand out life jackets, which is very important because the situation is very dangerous.”
What the Libyan navy says
A spokesman in Tripoli, Ayoub Qassem, says the Sea-Watch account is not correct.
Three vessels were spotted off the coast of Western Libya in the early hours of Friday.
A patrol had only boarded one vessel to check why it was in Libyan waters.
“The crew alleged that we attacked them and a number of casualties have been reported. This is not true at all. We call on them to prove this incident if they are right,” Qassem said.
“The commander asked them why they were in Libyan waters but the crew of the organisation did not answer logically. The crew was asked to leave. It is a breach and disrespect to Libyan sovereignty and according to international rules and norms.”