About 1200 migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya on Tuesday.
The operation was coordinated by Italy’s coast guards who said that the migrants were crossing on wooden and rubber boats.
Italy was long at the frontier of seaborne migration from North Africa, but most of the hundreds of thousands of people arriving in Europe on rickety boats last year took a less risky route to Greece.
This is the first major rescue operation to be conducted this year. In December, over 1,500 migrants were rescued off the Libyan coast in seven separate operations.
According to estimates released by the International Organization for Migration in late November, nearly 860,000 migrants had landed in Europe in 2015, with more than 3,500 dying while crossing the Mediterranean in search of safety.
The influx of migrants has provided the European Union with one of the harshest tests in its history, leading to threats from some member states to bar Greece from the Schengen passport-free travel area.