A boatload of 254 Syrian and Egyptian migrants including 94 minors landed in Italy on Sunday after a perilous voyage through rough seas from Egypt that skirted Greece and Malta to reach Italy.
The migrants were rescued some 150 nautical miles southeast of Sicily and were transferred onto three coast guard patrol boats that arrived in the port of Syracuse in the early hours of Sunday.
They were on a badly overcrowded fishing boat that was taking on water amid rough weather conditions in the Mediterranean due to high winds, Italian media reported, citing coast guard officials.
More than 500 African and Syrian asylum seekers are feared to have died in twin shipwreck tragedies off Italian coasts this month amid a growing influx of refugees trying to reach Europe.
Italy and Malta have seen more than 32,000 arrivals so far this year and Italy has asked for more EU assistance and wants the issue discussed at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels this week.