Malta's navy recovered two bodies and rescued around 160 African migrants from two boats which got into trouble on the Mediterranean Sea, an armed forces spokesman said Thursday.

Two more migrants were missing after they fell overboard.

The first group of around 60 people was rescued around 70 nautical miles southwest of Malta after a merchant ship contacted the national rescue coordination centre to say the vessel was taking on water and sinking fast.

The migrants, who are claiming to be Somalis and Eritreans, were in urgent need of medical attention, and there were two dead bodies on the boat.

While the migrants were being transferred onto the merchant ship, two of them fell overboard and are still missing, the navy spokesman said.

Between 20 and 30 of them were then transferred to Mater Dei state hospital suffering from sun stroke, severe dehydration and malnutrition, he said.

Another boat with 100 people on board was intercepted by the navy and taken to Malta early Thursday morning.

The latest arrivals bring the number of migrants who have landed on Malta this year to over 1,700.