Italy stops new boatloads of migrants

The past week has seen sharp spike in Tunisian migrants trying to enter EU.

Updated: Feb 21, 2011, 13:52 PM IST

Rome: Italian police intercepted two boats carrying around 60 illegal immigrants as European Union experts began helping authorities manage the inflow of migrants fleeing turmoil in North Africa, police and reports said.

Police spotted the first boat carrying 13 immigrants earlier in the day several miles off the islet of Lampedusa south of Sicily, but did not reveal the nationalities of the migrants.

Authorities stopped another boat carrying some 50 people and escorted it to the tiny island, Italian ANSA news agency reported.

Late on Sunday, a coastguard plane spotted two other boats in Tunisian territorial waters heading to the island, one carrying about 100 migrants and the other about 40.

The past week has seen a sharp spike in migrants attempting to make it into the EU from Tunisia, with some 5,000 brought to Lampedusa after being intercepted by coastguards. On Thursday, 26 Tunisian migrants were stopped.

Sunday, some 1,200 migrants remained in Lampedusa, the remainder having been transferred to other facilities in Italy.

The wave of immigration comes around a month after a revolution in Tunisia and another just over a week in Egypt that unseated their decades-old regimes, heightening social and economic tensions in the North African countries.

Italy has declared an emergency and appealed for European help.

Experts of the EU border management agency Frontex will assist in debriefing and interviewing migrants with special attention given to identifying those who may be in need of international protection.

They will also be tasked with detecting and preventing possible criminal activities on the borders outside of the European Union, Frontex said in a statement.

Frontex will also give aerial and naval support for border surveillance. The mission would comprise about 30 people, a plane and several ships. In all, about 10 countries have agreed to join.

Bureau Report