Three boats carrying more than 700 asylum-seekers — some of whom were Syrian refugees — have landed on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, according to the Italian Coastguard.
The new arrivals reflected a sharp increase in boats landing with people fleeing conflict-torn parts of the Mediterranean region and the Horn of Africa.
Two of the boats arrived on Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost point and a major gateway for undocumented migration into the European Union.
The first boat had 398 Syrians on board, the second had 111 whose nationality was yet to be determined.
The latest arrivals have caused severe overcrowding in the temporary migrant centre on the tiny island, which can only house 350 people and was already too full.
A third boat, which was spotted by a patrol plane on Tuesday, arrived in the port of Syracuse in Sicily with around 200 people on board, including 70 children.
The UN refugee agency earlier this month said that at more than 20,000, the number of asylum-seekers arriving in Italy was already around triple the whole of 2012, with most coming from Eritrea, Somalia and Syria.
A 22-year-old Syrian woman was found dead on a boat that arrived on Saturday with 339 people on board. Her funeral was held Wednesday in Sicily.