The Italian Coast Guard and Navy have rescued around 1,500 migrants from five boats in the southern Mediterranean after the vessels got into trouble off the coast of Libya.
According to officials, the migrant were trying to cross the sea to reach Italy, BBC News reported.
In five separate operations, navy and coastguard ships rescued the people in under 24 hours.
Vessels were despatched after satellite telephone distress calls were received from three migrant boats. Four coastguard vessels and one from the navy were also involved in the operation.
The Italian Coastguard said the migrants were transferred to Lampedusa Island and the ports of Augusta and Porto Empedocle in Sicily, the news agency reported.
The political crisis in Libya has increased the numbers of both migrants and asylum seekers crossing Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.
Libya’s proximity to Italy has made the country’s coast a preferred transit route for illegal attempts to reach the European Union (EU).
Earlier this year, the Italian Coastguard rescued around 1,400 migrants from two vessels after the ships were abandoned by their crews.
According to the Italian Ministry of the Interior, around 3,528 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean in January this year, regardless of severe winter conditions.
In March, European Union law enforcement agency Europol launched Joint Operational Team (JOT) Mare, in a bid to combat irregular crossings of the Mediterranean Sea.
Image: Italian Coast Guard rescuing migrants bound for the Italian coast. Photo: courtesy of Francesco Malavolta 2014/IMO.