More than 1,200 migrants reach Italian island on boats
ROME (AP) — More than 1,200 migrants in several decrepit, overcrowded fishing boats on Sunday reached a tiny Italian island in a span of 12 hours, as human traffickers exploited calm seas and warm weather to launch multiple vessels, the mayor said.
The first of the migrants arrived at 5 a.m., Lampedusa Mayor Salvatore Martello told Sky TG24 TV at 5 p.m. It was the biggest number of migrants to come ashore this year in a single day at an Italian port this year.
“I've said all you need is a day of good weather to see (all) these boats,'' Martello said. He appealed to Premier Mario Draghi to put migration on the agenda even as the government is heavily focused on guiding Italy's economic and social recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
By late afternoon, at least nine boats full of migrants disembarked on the island, which has an initial processing center for migrants coming ashore and requesting asylum.
Italian news reports said Italian coast guard and customs police boats escorted the vessels to Lampedusa after they were spotted in the Mediterranean a few miles offshore. The island, which lives off tourism and fishing, is closer to northern Africa than to the Italian mainland.
A newspaper in Sicily, Il Giornale di Sicilia, said they arrived on wooden or metal boats. Many the migrants were reported to be from Bangladesh and Tunisia. Most of those reaching Lampedusa were men, but there were some women and children, including a newborn, the newspaper said.
Late spring, when weather is generally good, has seen Libya-based migrant traffickers launch many unseaworthy vessels toward European shores. In recent years there have been surges in the number of migrant arrivals, either being rescued at sea, escorted by military vessels or sailing unassisted directly to Italian shores when seas are calm. In recent years, a few...