NEW DELHI: About 6500 migrants stranded off the coast of Libya have been rescued, the Italian coastguard said, in one of the biggest operations of its kind till date.

The coastguard said that about 40 co-ordinated rescue missions took place about 20km off the Libyan town of Sabratha. Dramatic footage shows migrants -- mostly from Eritrea and Somalia -- cheering as they were rescued.

A day before on Sunday, more than 1,100 migrants were rescued in the same area.

The rescue operation involved Italy as well as the EU's border agency Frontex and the NGOs Proactiva Open Arms and Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Political instability in Libya has seen the country emerge as a hub for trafficking, but the large number of migrants rescued is indicative of a worldwide refugee crisis as more and more people escape war in parts of Africa and Asia.

In June, the EU expanded its anti-smuggling operation in the central Mediterranean to train Libyan coastal and naval forces, which are now intercepting boats and returning migrants to Libya. Rights groups and experts estimate that there are about 3,500 migrants in roughly 20 official detention facilities across Libya, whereas others are held in informal detention centers controlled by criminal gangs or armed groups, leading to outrage amongst rights groups.

In fact, despite efforts by the European Union to stop migrants crossing from Turkey to Greece, 2016 is on track to become the worst year yet for migrant deaths. By August this year, the International Organisation for Migration’s “Missing Migrants Project” had already recorded 3,132 migrant deaths in the Mediterranean of 4,172 deaths worldwide.

At the same point last year, Missing Migrants Project tallied 2,991 - which means that already in 2016 the world has witnessed over 1,000 more fatalities than occurred through 2015’s first seven months, a 26 percent increase. In 2014 MMP reported 2,265 migrant or refugee fatalities through the end of July.

According to the report, deaths in the Mediterranean this year have reached 3,120, with IOM Libya reporting 120 bodies discovered on the beaches of Sabratha over a month ago. More than three-quarters of migrant deaths recorded thus far in 2016 have occurred in the Mediterranean, compared with 60 percent during the period of January through August 2015.

In Europe, 26 deaths were recorded during migration on land in 2016, slightly lower than the 31 recorded from January-July last year. However, the number of deaths during migration in Europe during the first seven months of both 2015 and 2016 are significantly higher than the 9 deaths recorded in 2014, indicating that current policies may be increasing the risks migrants and asylum seekers face on their journeys.

In fact, as the EU struck a deal with Turkey to prevent migrants from crossing over to Greece and Balkan nations closed their borders to migrants, an alternative route -- particularly for migrants from Somalia and Eritrea -- from Libya into Italy is emerging. About 106,000 people have arrived in Italy so far this year while 2,726 have died in the attempt, according to the IOM. Further, there are 275,000 migrants in Libya waiting to travel.