Italy saves 300 migrants off Sicily including new-born

Migrants being helped ashore in Sicily, 19 Aug 13 Hundreds of migrants picked up at sea have arrived in Sicily this month

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More than 300 migrants - most of them believed to be Syrians - have been rescued from two overcrowded boats off Sicily, Italian officials say.

A four-day-old girl born at sea was among the migrants, a coastguard commander said in the port of Syracuse.

The baby and her mother are in good health, the commander added.

The latest arrivals are among thousands who have made the hazardous crossing from North Africa to Italy or Malta in open boats this summer.

The baby girl was in a rickety fishing boat packed with 191 passengers. "We found her with the umbilical cord still attached," coastguard commander Luca Sancilio said.

The other boat was carrying about 150 migrants. It was also taken to Syracuse.

"There are now more Syrians than anyone else. This is a really dramatic exodus," said Mr Sancilio, who was quoted by the AFP news agency.

However, the nationalities of the migrants are still being verified as many do not have passports.

Malta influx

Late on Tuesday the Maltese armed forces rescued 102 men and 13 women from a dinghy - the second boatload of migrants to arrive in Malta in 24 hours.

Earlier 84 migrants were picked up from another dinghy off Malta.

Migrants arriving clandestinely by boat in EU states are assessed to see whether they have genuine grounds for seeking asylum in Europe.

Both Italy and Malta have urged their EU partners to do more to share the burden of housing irregular migrants.

Many boatloads have headed across the Mediterranean to escape turmoil and violence in North Africa since the Arab Spring erupted in 2011.

BBC

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