Arriving in Sicily tired, hungry and some in need of medical attention. About 600 migrants were brought to safety by the Italian navy.
The rescue comes as the European Union failed to agree on targets for spreading 40,000 asylum seekers expected to arrive in Italy and Greece over the next two years.
European Union Commissioner Dimitris Avamopoulos: "I want to be frank with you. I am disappointed that this did not happen today."
Both Greece and Italy have endured long periods of economic hardship. And the EU wants other member states to share the burden.
IHS's Jan Randolf: "I think there was an attempt to try and make it more objective.
At the moment the southern states are carrying the can, some of the northern states like Germany and Sweden have been accommodating and they want a more objective burden sharing basis but that's very difficult to get because it require political agreement.
"So far this year more than 150,000 (153,000) migrants fleeing wars and poverty have crossed into Europe. That's an increase of almost 150% (149%) 63,000 reached Greece by sea.
A similar number made it to Italy (62,000) And 10,000 arrived at the Hungary/Serbia border in May. A deal is critical as growing numbers of asylum seekers are now crossing into the Balkan peninsula to reach Central Europe.
Hungary received the EU's highest number of asylum applications in the first quarter of the year. And has begun building a security fence to keep illegal migrants out. So far investors appear unperturbed by Europe's growing migrant crisis.
But it will take a lot more work if they're to remain that way. "There's a perception that Europe can't deal with its problems, it might be better sorted out by different countries."
I think that's the real risk." Policy makers were shocked into taking action following the deaths of 700 migrants fleeing Libya for Italy in April. Progress is painfully slow.
However, ministers have agreed that EU governments will take in 20,000 refugees from their countries of origin, including Syria and Afghanistan. In exchange, there will be stricter identification of those migrants arriving in Italy and Greece. And those who do not qualify for international protection, will be sent home.