Tunisian migrants land in Italy

Hundreds more reach Lampedusa amid Italian concern over a new wave of migration from North African countries.

    Thousands of migrants have landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa in recent weeks [Reuters]

    Around 350 migrants from Tunisia have arrived by boat overnight on an Italian island where authorities have declared a humanitarian emergency.

    Thousands fleeing turmoil in North Africa, mostly from Tunisia, had already reached Lampedusa in the Mediterranean Sea before bad weather interrupted the flow last week.

    Local authorities said the new arrivals were transferred to a reception centre and are in good condition.

    "Overnight, we escorted a boat with 347 people on board, including four women," said the island's coast guard, the Associated Press reported.

    Last month the Italian government said it planned to deploy security forces on Tunisian soil to stop illegal immigration. Bernardino De Rubeis, Lampedusa's mayor, has called the situation "out of control".

    Italy has asked other European countries to help, with the influx of migrants to its shores expected to swell as thousands more seek to escape unrest in Libya amid an uprising against Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

    "We believe there are about 1.5 million illegal immigrants in Libya, some estimate even 2.5 million," Roberto Maroni, the Italian interior ministry, told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.

    In an interview with Al Jazeera, Franco Frattini, Italy's foreign minister, said his country was "bearing the burden of people that violate international and European law".

    He added: "One simple fact is very clear: Italy is by far the country that has been saving lives and rescuing the hugest number of migrants in need on the Mediterranean. We saved thousands and thousands of human lives and we are very proud of it."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and Agencies


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