Some 1,800 migrants were rescued from seven overcrowded boats on Saturday, said Italy’s coast guard, while five dead bodies were found on a boat carrying 212 others.
A coast guard spokeswoman said the cause of the deaths was not yet known.
According to the UN refugee agency, there is no detailed information about the nationality of the rescued migrants while a quarter of the arrivals this year were from Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.
Southern European countries such as Italy, Malta and Greece in particular have been the hardest hit by the sudden influx of migrants to the continent in recent years, and have long called on richer central and northern European countries for more support in dealing with the crisis.
The increase in migrants daring to risk their lives to sail across the Mediterranean in rickety boats belonging to human traffickers, many of whom abandon the migrants in the middle of the sea, is largely due to the recent increase in conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.
According to the latest report by the United Nations, 500 people have died since the beginning of 2015.
Last year, 280,000 people succeeded in entering Europe after crossing the Mediterranean sea, as 3,072 people died during the journey.
The EU has been under pressure to deal with the crisis, especially after over 900 migrants drowned off the coast of Italy when their boat capsized in April.