More than 2,000 migrants hoping to get to Italy were rescued from rickety converted fishing boats off Libya on Saturday. Many more were reported to be aboard other distressed vessels in the area.
Malta-based private rescue mission MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) said in a tweet that it had coordinated the rescue of over 2,000 people together with Italian, Irish and German ships.
Italy's coastguard could not confirm the numbers but said it was trying to get to a number of other boats which had requested assistance.
The number of migrants attempting the crossing on boats organised by people traffickers has increased by over ten percent in the first five months of 2015, suggesting last year's figure of 170,000 migrants arriving in Italy will be surpassed.
HMS Bulwark, a British Royal Navy ship, was one of a number of vessels alerted to the situation and was heading for Libyan waters at full speed, according to Sky News, which has a reporter onboard.