978 migrants rescued in one day in Mediterranean Sea

Desperate migrants from Africa and the Middle East keep heading to Europe, with 978 rescued Friday in the Mediterranean Sea, the Italian Coast Guard said Saturday via Twitter.

The migrants were picked up 30 miles off the coast of Libya, said European Parliament member Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right Northern League.

In the first three months of 2015, Italy registered more than 10,000 migrants arriving, the International Organization for Migration said, and about 2,000 were rescued at sea during the first weekend of April in the Channel of Sicily.

Most migrants recorded this year come from countries in West Africa as well as Somalia and Syria, the IMO said. They use Libya as a country of transit.

At least 480 migrants have died while crossing the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year, often because of bad weather and overcrowded vessels used by smugglers, the IMO said.

Sometimes the captains and crews abandon the ships, leaving passengers to fend for themselves.

At this time last year, there were fewer than 50 deaths reported, the IMO said. Most of the migrants are asylum seekers, victims of trafficking or violence, unaccompanied children and pregnant women.