ROME (AP) — Boatloads of illegal African migrants have resumed setting sail from Libya for Italy, authorities said, overwhelming tiny islands and towns in southern Italy already struggling to host thousands fleeing unrest in Tunisia.
Before dawn Sunday, Italian coast guard vessels escorted a boat crowded with 284 Somalis, Eritreans and Ethiopians to shore, the first boat to resume the long-established routes of smugglers’ boats toward Italy from Libya’s long coastline.
They are sleeping on the docks and in the fields.
Since Lampedusa, a tiny island off Sicily, is already straining from sheltering the thousands of Tunisians, who have taken to sleeping on docks and fields after housing space ran out, the boat from Libya was diverted to Linosa, an even tinier island in the Pelagie archipelago south of Sicily.
Authorities said at least two other boats coming from Libya with hundreds of migrants aboard were spotted by fishing boats or coast guard air and sea patrolling the southern Mediterranean Sunday.
What are they doing here, they have freedom now in Tunisia?
Sen. Maurizio Gasparri, a close conservative ally of Premier Silvio Berlusconi, said the migrants should be transported back to Tunisia rather than to the mainland.
“They are clandestine (migrants) who ran away from a country where there is no war — on the contrary, there is now more freedom than before,” the Italian news agency ANSA quoted Gasparri as telling reporters.
Over 600 land within a 24 hour period.
Italian border police said in the 24 hours ending at midnight Sunday some 625 migrants, aboard five separate boats landed on Lampedusa. And hundreds had arrived earlier in the week on the island, which is closer to northern Africa than to mainland Italy.
Amazing how prescient Jean Raspail was over 35 years ago when he wrote The Camp of the Saints.