Italy moves African migrants to mainland from Lampedusa

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Media captionSo many migrants fled to Lampedusa that it caused a humanitarian crisis

Italy has transferred 1,716 North African migrants - most of them Tunisian - to a temporary camp site in its south-eastern Puglia region.

The migrants arrived by ship on Thursday from Lampedusa, a tiny island packed with thousands fleeing poverty and unrest in Tunisia.

A "tent city" has been set up to accommodate them in Manduria, a town in the southern heel of Italy.

Overcrowding has created unhygienic conditions on Lampedusa, officials say.

Italy's Il Giornale newspaper says Rome is planning to repatriate 100 Tunisians every day.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will visit Tunis on Monday to discuss the migrant influx with the authorities.

North Africa crisis

Unrest has continued to grip Tunisia since an uprising in January toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Italy says about 20,000 migrants have arrived on its shores - mostly on Lampedusa - in the past three months, aboard overcrowded boats from Tunisia and war-torn Libya.

Bad weather has delayed further transfers from Lampedusa, but Italy has several ships at anchor off the island, ready to receive migrants.

On a visit to the island on Wednesday, Mr Berlusconi said that in "48 to 60 hours Lampedusa will be inhabited only by Lampedusans".

Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has complained about the handling of the crisis by the EU and France.

"Europe has been absolutely inactive on this," he told SkyTG24 TV, adding that "very limited funds" had been forthcoming from Brussels.

An EU spokesman responded, saying that 18m euros (£15.8m; $25m) had been given to Rome for repatriations in the past year, on top of emergency funds handed to all EU member states.

Mr Frattini accused France of a lack of solidarity by sending back Tunisian migrants who had tried to cross the Italian border with France at Ventimiglia.

The European Commission has offered to double EU development aid for Tunisia, to 320m euros (£282m; $453m) over the next two years, the Associated Press news agency reports.

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