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At least 4,400 migrants were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday, breaking the record for the number of rescues made in a single day, according to the Italian Coast Guard.
A variety of international vessels, including ships from the Italian Coast Guard, Irish Navy, and Norwegian Navy, joined in the rescue effort, carrying out 22 different operations to save people from overcrowded fishing boats, dinghies, and other vessels. Smugglers based in Libya reportedly took advantage of ideal sea conditions to launch more boats than usual.
Thousands of people from Africa and the Middle East are flooding into Europe in search of a better life. The journey across the Mediterranean is treacherous, but it is often the only option for migrants with limited resources who are seeking to avoid violence in their home countries. The migrants often pay smugglers thousands of dollars only to end up on unseaworthy boats adrift in the Mediterranean.
An estimated 340,000 migrants have entered Europe so far this year, according to the European border management agency Frontex. That number is more than double what it was for the same period last year. A total of 280,000 people arrived on the continent in 2014, according to Frontex.
"This is an emergency situation for Europe that requires all EU member states to step in to support the national authorities who are taking on a massive number of migrants at its borders," Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said in a statement.
The International Organization for Migration expressed increasing concern about more women being trafficked for sex work as they attempt to reach Europe.
"This year we have noticed an increase in the number of women arriving from Nigeria — 2,360 in 2015 compared to 545 at the end of July 2014," Federico Soda, director of the IOM Coordinating Office for the Mediterranean in Rome, said in a statement earlier this month. "This is worrying, as we know from interviewing many of these women that they are often potential victims of trafficking in need of protection. Some have confirmed to us that they were actually sent to Europe to work in the sex industry."
In addition to those attempting the dangerous sea voyage, other migrants are trekking thousands of miles on foot in search of safety. This weekend, 2,000 migrants pushed through police barriers in Macedonia in a desperate bid to cross the border from Greece. Police officers used batons and stun grenades to try and stop the crowd. Authorities later relented and allowed people to board trains and buses set for other countries in Europe, including Serbia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.