Italy’s navy on Tuesday rescued two boats packed with more than 500 migrants including 133 minors in the latest influx that has brought in more than 36,000 people so far in 2014.
A navy helicopter spotted the boats — one towing the other following an accident — south of Sicily on Monday.
Poor weather conditions delayed the rescue, carried out on Tuesday with the help of nearby merchant vessels.
There were also 64 women in the group, the navy said in a statement.
Almost all of the new arrivals are on boats leaving northern Libya, which is becoming increasingly lawless, and many are originally from Eritrea, Somalia and Syria.
Seventeen people drowned in a migrant boat shipwreck earlier this month in which more than 200 were rescued.
Two shipwrecks near Italian shores in October 2013 killed more than 400 migrants, prompting Italy to launch a large-scale naval search and rescue operation.
Interior Minister Angelino Alfano has accused the European Union of failing to help, saying: “The Mediterranean is not an Italian border but a European border”.