Private rescue groups including SOS Mediterranee and Sea-Eye overnight picked up hundreds of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
The Ocean Viking private rescue vessel saved more than 40 migrants in one operation on Tuesday (November 2) and another 90 during a second one later in the day.
SOS Mediterranee, the organization which runs the Ocean Viking, said that 139 people were now on board the ship.
Meanwhile, the Sea-Eye and Mission Lifeline aid organizations also performed five rescue operations during which a total of 325 people were saved at sea. More than a third of the rescued reportedly were underage migrants.
The rescue missions then continued as later overnight, the Sea-Eye 4 and Rise Above vessels were called in to rescue one boat, but found other small vessels in danger as well. Some of those rescued were found to have been injured, while dozens of others was reported to be of need of medical treatment at the time.
Cold waters, hot topic
Despite saving thousands of lives in recent years, private rescue operations remain a thorn in the side of Mediterranean nations like Malta and Italy, who say that migrants feel more confident to embark on perilous sea crossings knowing that there are groups looking out for their safety.
The rescue groups that run these missions, however, argue that most people are driven into this situation our of desperation, and that would attempt to journey across the Mediterranean regardless of the presence of private rescue mission, as their main objective is to achieve a higher standard of living in Europe.
The Italian interior ministry said that nearly 53,700 migrants had reached the Mediterranean nation so far this year -- a number that is almost twice as high as the number of migrants coming to Italy during the same period last year.
Afghan migrants reach Sicily
In a separate development, about 120 migrants from Afghanistan reached the Italian port of Portopalo di Capo Passero in southern Sicily under their own power, reported the ANSA news agency.
Local police took the new arrivals into custody. Investigators have said that the Afghan migrants might have started the final leg of their journey not in northern Africa but rather might have set sail in Greece or Turkey.