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Photograph: EPA/KAY NIETFELD

More than 300 migrants were rescued off the coast of Sicily from a boat that had set sail from Egypt, the Italian coast guard said Thursday.

The group, which included Syrians, Eritreans and Libyans, had called for help Wednesday using a satellite phone and was located by reconnaissance aircraft, according to a statement.

The migrants were picked up by two coast guard vessels and later transferred to a third boat due to take them to Sicily later Thursday.

Since border controls along the so-called Balkan route from Turkey to Germany have been stepped up, Italy has been concerned that migrant flows will be rerouted towards its shores. In the first three months of 2016, there has been an 85-per-cent year-on-year jump in arrivals.

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