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ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria's coastguard has picked up 286 illegal migrants heading across the Mediterranean to Europe by boat, the Defence Ministry has said.

The migrants were detained on several boats between Thursday and Saturday, according to a ministry statement carried on Sunday by the state news agency, APS.

Algeria has so far seen relatively few attempts to cross to Europe by boat, compared to the hundreds of thousands of mostly African would-be migrants who have set off in search of prosperity or security from elsewhere along the north African coast, mostly from Libya.

Most illegal crossings from Algeria take place in summer, when sailing conditions are more favourable.

Neighbouring Tunisia has recently seen a surge in such departures as young unemployed people seek work in Italy. Algeria's economy is also suffering as its vital energy revenues have been hit by a sharp fall in prices.

(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Editing by Ulf Laessing and Kevin Liffey)

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