Italy and northern Africa
Italy and northern Africa
Italy says it has rescued around 2,500 asylum-seekers from the Mediterranean during a 24-hour period, most of them departing from North Africa.

The navy said Friday 157 children were among the migrants who had been brought to shore since Thursday, many of them in overcrowded boats.  

Officials say good weather conditions apparently prompted the asylum-seekers to make the perilous journey.

Although the authorities gave no details about the nationalities of the migrants, they often include Syrians fleeing civil war and Eritreans evading military conscription.

Italy is a main gateway to Europe for African and Middle Eastern migrants seeking to escape war, poverty and political turmoil. The country has been reeling from the large influx of migrants who have arrived this year.

On Tuesday, the International Organization of Migration said more than 40,000 migrants had risked crossing the Mediterranean during the first five months of this year -- close to the total number for all of 2013.

Italy has been demanding that the European Union do more to help police Mediterranean waters.

Some material for this report provided by Reuters