SYRACUSE, Italy, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Syrians and Egyptians are among nearly 700 illegal migrants who arrived in southern Italy in several boats within 24 hours during the week, authorities said.
Italian coast guard officials found 176 people Thursday, including 41 women and 73 children, who said they were from Syria or Egypt and paid at least 1,500 euros ($2,000) to traffickers for the voyage, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Tuesday the Mediterranean island nation of Malta refused to accept a group of African migrants rescued by an oil tanker on its way to Libya before Italy allowed the group to arrive on the Italian island of Sicily, the British Broadcasting Corp. said.
The group that arrived Thursday was given accommodation in Portopalo, a town near the city of Syracuse on Sicily, and several pregnant women in the group were hospitalized, the newspaper Siracusa News reported.
Wednesday 100 Syrians were rescued from another boat and taken to Calabria, on the Italian mainland, the BBC reported.
Malta, the smallest member of the European Union, took in 200 other refugees earlier in the week, but is struggling to cope with the migrant influx. The United Nations' refugee agency noted a rise in illegal travelers from Syria, wracked by a civil war, and Egypt, which is suffering from political instability and a weak economy.