More than 1,000 migrants rescued off Italian coast

More than 1,000 migrants attempting to reach Europe by boat have been rescued by the Italian navy in just 24 hours.

Navy helicopters spotted four overcrowded boats struggling to stay afloat south of Sicily on Thursday and ships were sent to save them, the navy said in a statement.

Italian Navy footage of an overcrowded migrant ship off the coast of Sicily. Credit: APTN/Marina Militare

The 823 men, women and children aboard the four vessels were from countriesincluding Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq and Tunisia.

Migrants sit in a Marina Militare vessel during a rescue operation by the Italian navy. Credit: REUTERS/Marina Militare/Handout via Reuters

In a separate operation, 233 migrants from Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Zambia, Mali and Pakistan were rescued by the Navy and taken to a port near Syracuse on Sicily's eastern coast.

Italian Navy footage of a migrant ship off the coast of Sicily. Credit: APTN/Marina Militare

Italy is a major gateway into Europe for many migrants seeking a better life, and sea arrivals to the country from Northern Africa more than tripled in 2013, fuelled by refugees in Syria's civil war and strife in the Horn of Africa.

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