A boat carrying hundreds of migrants was towed to safety in the Sicilian port of Catania on Wednesday by the Italian Coast Guard.
The approximately 700 people on board cheered as their rusty old boat arrived at the quayside after they got stuck at sea when their fuel ran out.
The UN’s International Organization for Migration said that the first three months of this year have seen the most known deaths of migrants crossing the central Mediterranean in smugglers' boats in six years.
The agency documented 441 migrant deaths along the dangerous sea route between northern Africa and the southern shores of Europe.
It said on Wednesday that “delays in state-led rescues" or no help at all were contributing to many of these deaths.
Italy’s right-wing government on Tuesday declared a six-month national state of emergency to help it cope with the surge in migrants arriving on its coast.
The Interior Ministry said that, since the start of this year, some 31,000 migrants have either been rescued by Italian military boats or charity ships or reached Italy without assistance.
That's nearly four times higher than the roughly 8,000 people for the same period in each of the two previous years.