The number of migrants rescued in operations coordinated by Italy's coast guard so far in 2016 is up sharply from the same period last year.

Interior Ministry figures for the first three months of this year show 16,075, including more than 1,500 brought to safety on Tuesday, have been rescued from smugglers' boats in distress in the waters between Libya and Sicily. That compares to 10,165 rescued in the same period in 2015.

The coast guard said that on Tuesday it coordinated 11 operations with the help of Italian navy and coast guard vessels as well as ships tasked to European rescue missions.

Rescued migrants and asylum-seekers are taken to southern Italian ports for document checks.