Italian coastguard rescues 242 migrants off Lampedusa island

They were discovered crammed into just five small boats.

Local media said one had set out from Libya with 52 men and three women from India, Eritrea, Syria, Egypt and Pakistan on board.

Another boat, which was was just seven metres long, carried 41 men and one woman who were from Congo, Burkina Faso and Guinea.

It had set out from the port of Sfax in Tunisia, as had a third boat which carried 20 Tunisians.

The EU's executive commission says member states are close to agreeing a plan that would see migrants looked after by almost all of the 27 states rather than just the southern ones along the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile those states, including Greece, Spain and Italy, have extended their fences and border walls and intensified maritime patrols to try to stop the crossings.

"So far this year, the Central Mediterranean remains the most active route into the EU, with more than 50 300 detections in January-May reported by national authorities. This route accounted for nearly half of the irregular entries to the EU in 2023," the EU's border agency Frontex said in a news release.