Over 1,200 migrants reach Italian island in 26 hours

by IANS |

Rome, Nov 16 (IANS) Over 1,200 rescued migrants have arrived on the tiny island of Lampedusa in southern Italy in the last 26 hours, authorities said.

The record number of migrant arrivals followed several rescue operations carried out by both Italian and European naval forces across the Strait of Sicily, the section of the Mediterranean Sea separating Italy from the coast of North Africa, reports Xinhua news agency.

On Wednesday, the island registered at least 520 migrants, the Italian Red Cross (CRI) said.

This was in addition to some 900 migrants rescued on Tuesday through 19 different operations.

At least another 220 people were brought to land later on Wednesday, according to the humanitarian organidation.

Meanwhile, migrants were being transferred to the mainland to be sorted out to different immigration centers throughout the country.

The Interior Ministry put this relocation mechanism in place to try to avoid overcrowding the island.

The number of people hosted in the reception center now stands at 1,133, the CRI said.

"Our team is carrying out reception procedures and first health checks. No significant criticalities are being reported, even if the number of people (present in the hotspot) exceeds the center's capacity," said Chiara Nigro, a CRI worker at Lampedusa.

Lampedusa is a tiny stretch of land and the southernmost part of Italy.

Mass arrivals of migrants over the years have often brought the hotspot to the brink of collapse.

Formally, local facility on the island has enough capacity for 400 people.

The Western African migration route to Europe has seen "the biggest rise in the number of irregular crossings, which nearly doubled so far this year to over 27,700", the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) said late Wednesday.

The number of arrivals registered in October -- some 13, 000 -- was the highest monthly figure on record, it said.

Overall, the number of irregular border crossings at the EU's external borders rose by 18 per cent in the first 10 months of this year to nearly 331,600, the highest total for the period since 2015, Frontex said.

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