Italian navy and coast guard ships have picked up about 1,500 migrants at sea in just 24 hours.
Authorities said Sunday they received distress calls from three migrant vessels in trouble in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast.
On the way to the rescue site, they found two other foundering boatloads of migrants.
About 1,500 men, women, and children were taken to the islands of Sicily or Lampedusa. There is no word on the condition of the migrants.
Italian officials say the number of migrants making the treacherous Mediterranean crossing to Europe has soared in the first three months of the year compared to 2014.
Most are from North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, looking to escape war, poverty, and terrorism.
Those who do not drown are picked up and taken to Italy, the closest European entry point.