ROME (AFP) – More than 600 migrants from Eritrea, Pakistan, Syria and other countries landed on Italian shores on three boats between Monday night and Tuesday, coast guards said.
One boat carrying 336 people was rescued by the coast guard near Porto Empedocle in Sicily and the migrants were taken ashore, where most of them fled from police.
The migrants said they were all from Eritrea.
A second boat with 233 people aboard was also spotted and taken to the tiny island of Lampedusa, Italy's southernmost point and a major arrival point for migrants boats from Libya and Tunisia.
A third boat with 67 aboard arrived in a small port near Syracuse in southeast Sicily. The migrants said they were from Pakistan and Syria.
Most of the thousands of economic migrants and refugees who have landed in Italy in recent months have landed in Libya from other parts of Africa.
Some 350 migrants -- many of them from Egypt and Syria -- arrived on four boats in Sicily on Monday.
Calmer weather conditions and growing unrest in north Africa have led to a surge in migrant arrivals in recent weeks.
Italy's interior ministry said 24,277 migrants landed in Italy in the 12-month period between August 1, 2012 and August 10, 2013.