Europe

Italy's Lampedusa island hit by migrant crisis

  • 22 March 2011
  • From the section Europe
Migrants with washing line on Lampedusa, 21 Mar 11
Some locals say the influx threatens to turn Lampedusa into a camp site

More North African migrants have come ashore on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, where the migrant influx this year has doubled the population.

The 127 who arrived early on Tuesday pushed the migrant numbers to about 5,500 on Lampedusa. Local officials have demanded help from mainland Italy.

Most of the migrants are from Tunisia, where civil unrest has continued since the revolution in January.

An Italian warship is expected to move some migrants from Lampedusa shortly.

Italian media report that Lampedusa islanders have urged Rome to evacuate migrants to holding centres elsewhere in Italy, because Lampedusa can no longer cope with the numbers.

The Ansa news agency says conditions are wretched at Lampedusa's migrant holding centre, designed for just 800 but now housing almost 3,000.

On Sunday local people protested in a bid to prevent a ferry from unloading tents and chemical toilets for the migrants, but eventually officials persuaded them to let the delivery go ahead.

There are fears that Lampedusa's vital tourist industry will suffer because of the migrant influx.

Dozens of migrants have been sleeping rough outdoors, exposed to the elements.

According to Italy's Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, this year nearly 15,000 North African migrants - mostly Tunisians - have come ashore in Italy. The majority have arrived on Lampedusa, lying just 113 kilometres (70 miles) from Tunisia.

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