Italy’s navy says it has picked up nearly 3,000 people in the last 24 hours as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean by boat.
The navy released pictures on Saturday showing the rescue of migrants from overcrowded and unsafe boats. The video showed at least 450 people being transferred from their boat to navy ships.
Those rescued were being transferred to Sicily, where their cases would be considered by authorities.
Authorities told the Reuters news agency that most of the migrants were Syrian, while La Repubblica newspaper said that many were Egyptian.
The interceptions come days after Italy’s government said almost as many migrants had arrived so far this year as in the whole of 2013.
The navy had posted the latest figures on Twitter on Saturday, and said that the migrants in the pictures were some of the 3,000 expected to land in Sicily on Saturday.
It said it had picked up 1,300 migrants on Saturday and 1,443 on Friday from several boats, one of which was carrying 264 children.
Another 200 were picked up near Lampedusa, the Italian island which was the scene of a double tragedy last year when more than 400 migrants died trying to reach Europe’s shores.
Italy has long borne the brunt of migrants making the crossing from North Africa to Europe, but EU border agency Frontex says there has been a significant rise in numbers in recent months.
The Italian government this week put the number of migrant arrivals at more than 39,000 so far this year – not far off the 43,000 registered in the whole of 2013.