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Tiny Italian island copes with thousands of migrants who arrived in 24-hour span

(Valeria Ferraro / Associated Press)

Tiny Italian island copes with thousands of migrants who arrived in 24-hour span

Sept. 14, 2023

A migrant reception center in Italys southernmost island of Lampedusa was overwhelmed Thursday as it coped with transferring to the mainland thousands of migrants who arrived on small, unseaworthy boats in a 24-hour span this week.

The Red Cross said 4,200 migrants remained at the center out of the 6,800 who had swamped the tiny tourist and fishing island in a flotilla of some 120 boats arriving from Tunisia. Transfers to the mainland were ongoing.

After a particularly challenging day like yesterday, today people are being continuously transferred, said Francesca Basile of the Italian Red Cross. The situation is certainly complex and gradually we are trying to return to normal.

She said that all of the migrants have been given food and that camping beds were being distributed so that they dont sleep in the cold.

On Wednesday, some migrants scuffled for food and bottles of water, according to Sicilian media. Others jumped into the sea to cool off.

Italian television Sky TG24 said just one migrant boat arrived on the island Thursday, carrying 44 people.

Migration attempts into Europe without authorization hit six-year high

Lampedusas mayor, Filippo Mannino, lashed out at Europe for leaving Italy alone to grapple with migrant arrivals by sea, saying its neighbors had remained silent all these months. He called for a structural solution to the migrant crisis, and told Sky that Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had pledged her support in a phone call.

According to the Interior Ministry, nearly 124,000 migrants have reached Italy by sea this year through Wednesday, roughly double the number by the same time last year. On Thursday, another 180 migrants rescued at sea were brought to the port city of Salerno, south of Naples.

Italy saw the highest-ever number of sea arrivals in 2016, when some 181,400 migrants arrived, according to figures from the United Nations migration agency.

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