Nearly 700 migrants were rescued near the Sicilian port town of Augusta while attempting to cross the notoriously dangerous and deadly Mediterranean sea route from Northern Africa to Europe.
The migrants, who were rescued by Spanish and Italian ships, were tended to by Red Cross personnel.
Since a deal was concluded between Turkey and the European Union this year, the much safer route used by Syrian refugees to enter Europe by leaving Turkey bound for Greece has been made riskier for those who attempt it.
Those deported from Turkey are now sent to overcrowded and dangerous refugee camps. More than 1 million migrants reached Greece through Turkey between January 2015 and March 2016.
The new route taken by many of the refugees begins in Libya, where a black market of smugglers operate without concern for the safety of the migrants. Many are sent out on inflatable rafts and improvised dinghys.
The International Organization for Migration said last week that 4,220 migrants have died in the Mediterranean this year. Although there have been fewer attempted sea crossings this year, the past year has been 3 times more deadly for those who do attempt the trip, largely due to the closed Greek sea route. The increased frequency of accidents has also put increased strain on the coast guards of Mediterranean countries, who are often unable to deal with the number of refugees who need rescuing.