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Italy: 'Libyan' migrants arrive by boat on Sicily

last update: March 21, 12:18

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Rome, 21 March (AKI) - More than 100 migrants who say they are Libyan arrived in eastern Sicily during the night between Sunday and Monday as an international military operation continues to pound forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

Two boats carrying 117 men were intercepted in Sicily's Catania province. The migrants are among the more than 10,000 mostly Tunisian illegal immigrants who have arrived in southern Italy since a popular uprising toppled Tunisia's authoritarian government in January.

Libya and Italy have successfully stemmed the flow of migrants headed to Europe by jointly patrolling Libya's coast. Gaddafi has threatened to unleash a wave of immigrants to punish Italy and its European allies for condemning his violent crackdown on opposition.

Meanwhile, arrivals of Tunisian migrants continued early Monday with around 500 arriving on the tiny island of Lampedusa. Currently there are around 5,000 immigrants people detained on the island, roughly matching its entire population.

Lampedusa is 113 kilometres from Tunisia and 205 kilometres south of Sicily.

Lampedusa's sole detention centre is designed to hold only 850 people. Hundreds of people have been transferred to other locations in Italy but severe overcrowding has prompted the government to set up a tent city. Local residents say they've been overrun and on Sunday temporarily prevented a ship carrying supplies for the tent city from unloading.

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