Migrants walk as they disembark from a navy ship in the Sicilian harbour of Augusta on February 7, 2014. Picture: Antonio Parrinello

Milan -

The Italian Navy has rescued nearly 500 migrants, including 100 children, in an all-night operation.

The Navy said in a release that the migrants were rescued on Tuesday from two boats, tied together because one motor failed.

The operation off the Sicilian coast was complicated by rough seas, and the Navy first dropped life preservers into the boats before moving the migrants onto a Navy vessel. Most were from Syria, Egypt and Bangladesh.

Save the Children has expressed concern about the large number of unaccompanied minors arriving in the latest wave of migrants fleeing conflict and poverty, usually aboard unseaworthy boats.

More than 20 000 migrants have landed in Italy so far this year, 10 times more than the same period last year. - Sapa-AP