Italy has made a fresh appeal for EU help, saying that in just 48 hours it has rescued 4,000 migrants from boats trying to reach European shores.
Rome has repeatedly asked for assistance from Europe. Two thirds of migrants reaching Italy travel on to other countries.
“It is not only an Italian problem and we will fight in Europe to obtain the common defence of this border,” Interior Minister Angelino Alfano has said.
According to Alfano, some 15,000 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea since the start of the year.
The latest rescues include that of a group of over 1,000 people brought to ports on Sicily after their boats got into difficulty.
Italy has stepped up naval and air patrols since hundreds of migrants drowned last year in two separate disasters near the island of Lampedusa.