The Italian coast guard says its ships, along with military vessels from Ireland and Britain, have helped to rescue more than 700 migrants from seven smugglers boats in the Mediterranean north of Libya.

An Irish military statement said the Irish vessel Le Eithne was involved in six of the operations Sunday, rescuing migrants from inflatable rubber dinghies.

So far this year, some 60,000 migrants saved by ships in a multi-nation search and rescue mission have been brought to Italian ports.

Many seek asylum from wars or persecution in Africa or the Middle East, and hope to reach families in northern Europe.

Italy wants northern European countries to take in fixed numbers of migrants. EU discussions about Italy's appeal have so far yielded plans for such help on a voluntary basis.