2,300 migrants rescued in Mediterranean: Italian coastguard

Rome (AFP) - Around 2,300 migrants including many women and very young children were rescued from the Mediterranean on Saturday while on a perilous crossing to Italy, the Italian coastguard said.

A Spanish ship, an Irish naval vessel and several humanitarian boats took part in the rescue operations which began at dawn, it said.

The migrants were travelling on 17 inflatable boats and a fishing boat.

The rescues follow a huge wave of migrants who arrived in Italy at the end of August, when more than 14,000 people were plucked to safety in the space of five days. Most of them were from sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Italy's interior ministry, about 124,500 migrants have arrived since the start of 2016, slightly lower than the 122,000 recorded last year.

Italy is sheltering growing numbers of would-be refugees as its neighbours to the north move to tighten their borders and make it harder for migrants to travel to their preferred destinations in northern Europe.

According to interior ministry figures this month, Italy now has 148,000 asylum-seekers in reception centres, compared with 103,000 in 2015 and 66,000 in 2014.