The Italian coast guard has rescued 800 migrants and recovered at least two bodies from sinking dinghies off the Mediterranean coast of Tunisia.
The migrants were spotted in five boats, including two rubber dinghies, as they tried to cross the treacherous stretch of sea.
Seven children with water in their lungs were taken by helicopter to a hospital in the coastal city of Sfax, Tunisia.
The coast guard also confirmed that two bodies were recovered.
As many as 800 migrants were rescued today off the coast of Tunisia by the Italian coast guard
Last year, as many as 3,100 migrants drowned as they attempted to cross to Italy, the International Organization for Migration said.
And so far this year 180 migrants have died while trying to travel to Italy by sea.
This month alone there were 345 migrant fatalities worldwide.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants have been rescued at sea in recent years and taken to ports in southern Italy.
Some are seeking refuge from armed conflicts, while many others, particularly from sub-Saharan Africa, are economic migrants likely to be found ineligible for asylum in Europe.
They were spotted in five boats, some similar to that pictured above, and appeared to have launched from Libya
So far this year 180 migrants have died while trying to travel to Italy by sea
Human traffickers launch overcrowded, unseaworthy boats from Libya and other countries with Mediterranean coastlines.
Often, if these boats flounder, migrants fleeing Syria are taken to Tunisia for treatment.
But hundreds of thousands of migrants have also been rescued and taken to southern Italian ports in the last few years, including nearly 119,000 last year.
This was a decrease of one third on the previous year, according to Italy’s interior ministry.
There was however a sharp drop in arrivals in Italy during in the second half of 2017 following efforts by Rome to discourage migrants from attempting the crossing.
Human traffickers pack overcrowded, unseaworthy boats with migrants desperate to reach Europe
Earlier this month Royal Navy sailors revealed they have rescued more than 18,000 migrants from the Mediterranean and dropped them off in Europe
The first six days of 2018 saw 400 people rescued and taken to Italy, compared to 729 over the same period in 2017, it said.
Earlier this month Royal Navy sailors revealed they have rescued more than 18,000 migrants from the Mediterranean and dropped them off in Europe.
Marines armed with SA-80 assault rifles also smashed up and burned 162 smuggling gang boats during their two and a half year migrant mission.
In the last year alone, the Navy has rescued about 3,000 migrants and taken them to Italy. Sailors also helped a further 1,400 who were transferred to a Navy ship from other vessels.