13 Feb 2011

Thousands of Tunisian migrants arrive in Italy

3:15 pm on 13 February 2011

The Italian government has declared a humanitarian emergency after nearly 3000 migrants arrived in the country in the last few days.

Officials say most of the migrants are from Tunisia, which has seen continued turmoil since the ousting of President, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, on 14 January.

The declaration frees up funds and personnel to deal with the influx.

Most of the migrants have been trying to reach Italy in small boats and have been intercepted by the coast guard reports the BBC.

Italian officials said nearly 3000 migrants had arrived on the island of Lampedusa in the last three days, swamping facilities there. The island is closer to North Africa than the mainland of Italy.

Ferries and planes have been pressed into service to transport the migrants to detention centres in Sicily and elsewhere in southern Italy so their identities can be checked.