Agence France Presse
Published — Saturday 15 December 2012
Last update 15 December 2012 8:59 pm
ROME: Two boats carrying more than 400 African migrants arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa on Saturday, the latest in a wave of thousands of undocumented migrants arriving from North African shores.
The boats were intercepted overnight by Italian coast guards in open sea south of the rocky outcrop, which is closer to Africa than to the Italian mainland.
The first boat carried 218 sub-Saharan migrants including seven women. The second boat, which was some 20 meters (66 feet) long, had around 220 people including 20 women, Italian news agency ANSA reported, citing the coast guard.
Most of the recent Lampedusa arrivals have been on boats coming from Libya.
Migrants are usually taken to a small facility on Lampedusa and then to centers for asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants in other parts of Italy.
The charity Save the Children on Thursday said the situation was “chaotic,” with 722 migrants still on the island including 102 women and 15 unaccompanied minors, and urged the government to transfer them to better accommodation.
Tens of thousands of migrants landed on Italian shores last year in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings. Thousands more have arrived this year despite Italy’s calls for Tunisia and Libya to step up their maritime border controls.
Hundreds have died over the past two years in the perilous Mediterranean crossings, when their heavily overcrowded dinghies and fishing boats capsized or sank in stormy weather or were cast adrift due to engine failure.