Italy has called on the EU to take the strain of rescuing migrants crossing from Africa or says it will go its own way.
Over the weekend, the Italian navy rescued more than 4,000 migrants who were packed into makeshift dinghies, many of which had capsized. It also recovered at least 25 bodies.
On twitter, the Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said on Monday “Either the immigration issue needs to be taken over by Europe or Italy will start taking its own decisions #italycannotwait”
There has been no let-up in the record numbers risking the perilous crossing - over 100,000 migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year, close to double the number last year.
Italy is spending 9.5 million euros a month on its Mare Nostrum migrant search-and-rescue operation and says it can no longer cope.
It has been urging EU border agency Frontex to take the strain but the EU says Frontex is short of personnel and funding.
Italian and EU officials are due to meet on Tuesday in Rome to discuss the issue.
Meanwhile the steady flow of desperate people continues as human traffickers take advantage of the chaos in Libya to launch more crossings.