ROME: A migrant boat carrying 137 people reached Italy from North Africa yesterday as the Italian government prepared to launch new naval and air patrols to prevent repeats of shipwrecks which have drowned hundreds of Africans this month alone.
The boat docked in the port of the southern island of Lampedusa, and the refugees, mostly Syrians, were in good condition, a coastguard spokesman said. Separately, more than 200 migrants arrived in ports in eastern Sicily after being rescued on Sunday by an Italian merchant ship and by a coastguard cutter.
The arrivals follow the deaths of more than 350 people, mostly Eritreans, in a shipwreck in the area on October 3. Last Friday, at least 34 more migrants drowned when their boat capsized, though the true figure may be above 200.
Lampedusa, which lies southwest of Sicily and just 113km from the coast of Tunisia, has been a stepping stone for migrants seeking a better life in Europe for two decades. Now the Syrian civil war and unrest in Egypt and other Arab and African countries are fuelling the flow of refugees, many of whom have to pass through an increasingly unstable Libya.
Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s government was due to endorse plans to ramp up its surveillance capacity in the Mediterranean from Tuesday to try to prevent more deaths.