Italian president Giorgio Napolitano has praised those who helped Syrian refugees ashore in Sicily.
Bathers near Pachino in south-east Sicily helped the coastguard rescue about 160 migrants.
Napolitano said: “The images aired by television channels of dozens of swimmers that from the beach pushed out generously to assist refugees coming from Syria, many of which were children, to reach the shore and safety, do Italy proud.
“This shows how, when faced by tragedy – which is experienced on a daily basis on (the stepping-stone island of) Lampedusa and elsewhere with arrivals of those escaping from wars and persecutions – a sense of humanity and solidarity prevails in Italians, stronger than any sense of prejudice of fear.”
Official figures show the number of migrants landing on Italian shores has more than doubled over a 40-day period during July and August this year.
Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano said 8,932 migrants had arrived after perilous sea crossings between July 1 and August 10.
The interior ministry said the total number of migrant arrivals for 2013 now stood at 17,167.