Italian and Maltese patrol teams have rescued more than 700 migrants in a series of operations in the Mediterranean Sea.
Italian officials say the rescues took place late Thursday and Friday after patrols intercepted at least five boats packed with migrants near the Italian island of Lampedusa.
They say Eritreans were among the migrants on board.
The rescues took place as European Union leaders at a summit in Brussels grappled with the issue of illegal immigration.
Earlier this month, Italy began stepping up patrols in the region after a boat filled with migrants sank near Lampedusa, killing at least 359 people. It was one of the deadliest maritime accidents in the Mediterranean.
Investigators said most of the passengers on board the ship that sank were from Eritrea or Somalia. Lampedusa is closer to continental Africa than to the Italian mainland. It is often the destination for boats full of migrants seeking entrance to the European Union.
In another development Friday, Eritrean migrants stages a small demonstration outside of the Italian parliament in Rome. They called for more rights for migrants in Italy.
The United Nations refugee agency estimates 32,000 migrants have arrived this year in Italy and Malta.
Authorities say worsening humanitarian conditions in the Horn of Africa and Syria have spurred a surge in refugees fleeing to Europe.