The Italian navy rescued a total of 1,700 migrants aboard five boats in the Mediterranean on Saturday after receiving requests for help from nearly two dozen vessels, a spokesman for the coast guard said.
Operations are continuing to rescue the other 17 boats.
Europe is struggling to cope with record influx of refugees as migrants flee war in Middle Eastern countries such as Syria.
The Mediterranean has become the world’s most deadly crossing point for migrants. More than 2,300 people have died this year in attempts to reach Europe by boat, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
Italy’s interior ministry has yet to say where the migrants will be taken, the navy said in an earlier statement.
On Saturday thousands of rain-soaked migrants stormed across Macedonia’s border as police lobbed stun grenades and beat them with batons, seeking to enforce a decree to stem their flow through the Balkans to western Europe.