ROME Italian coastguards said they had intercepted and picked up 358 African migrants attempting to reach Italy in two overcrowded vessels on Saturday.
Two hundred and thirty-five of the migrants from sub-Saharan Africa were travelling in a rickety wooden boat and the other 123 were spotted on a rubber dinghy, said the coastguards.
A coastguard spokesman, who was unable to give any information on where the vessels departed from, said the migrants were all in decent health and were being transported to reception centres.
Italy has borne the brunt of clandestine seaborne migration to southern Europe that has ebbed and flowed for several years. Migrants say they are attracted by the prospect of a better life in Europe.
Most migrants risk the voyage across the Mediterranean Sea in small and overcrowded fishing boats. Thousands have died as a result of shipwreck, harsh conditions at sea or a lack of food and water.
(Reporting By Catherine Hornby; Editing by Ralph Gowling)