Over the course of about 48 hours, rescuers pulled 5,000 refugees from boats and the waters of the Mediterranean, officials reported.
Italian and Libyan Coast Guard crews saved the refugees, who were sailing from Libya to Italy, between May 18-20.
The body of a man who drowned was also pulled from the water, Press TV reported.
With regions of sub-Saharan Africa rocked by economic hardship and violence, displaced people have been the continent. Many of the rescued refugees were treated for malnutrition when they reached support centers in Italy.
Officials estimated that as many as 1 million residents of Libya want to get on boats and leave because remaining there was no longer a safe option. According to the UN refugee agency, thousands of displaced people have been arrested and corralled into packed detention centers.
“Libya is crazy. They arrest us ... two, three days no eat, no drink. They beat us,” Alseer Issa Ibrahim of Sudan told Reuters.
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said he was “shocked” by conditions at the centers in Libya and demanded that the refugees be released.
Nearly 47,000 refugees have fled to Italy this year, up more than 30 percent over last year. Another 1,300 refugees were missing or dead.
The International Organization for Immigration said the influx of refugees was attributable to warmer temps and seas. But even in better weather, the trip was perilous due to overcrowded boats.
The vast majority of those rescued last week were in international waters. They were taken to Italy for food and care. The rest were picked up in Libyan waters and returned to Africa.
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