Four boats carrying more than 350 migrants including Egyptians and Syrians have landed in Italy, officials said Monday, the latest arrivals due to the growing unrest in north Africa.
Ninety-nine people including 17 women and 11 children arrived on one boat that was intercepted by coastguard vessels and taken to Catania in Sicily. The migrants said they were from Syria and Egypt.
“Some of us are escaping from Egypt because there are people who lost relatives after the fall of (deposed Islamist president Mohamed) Morsi,” one migrant was quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA.
He said their journey had lasted seven days.
“Unfortunately this is one of the many emergencies we have witnessed in the past month,” local coastguard Giacomo Salerno told reporters in Catania.
He said six of the migrants had been hospitalised due to heat strokes and low blood pressure.
“What is happening in Egypt is forcing these people to flee from where they risk their lives and find refuge in the first port where they can find more security than in their country,” he said.
Almost 800 people have died in days of clashes between security forces and Morsi supporters throughout Egypt, where authorities last week launched a bloody crackdown on demonstrators protesting his July 3 ouster by the army.
Another boat carrying around 150 people — including some 40 children and 40 women — arrived near Noto, also in Sicily, without being intercepted at sea.
Local police said they had found 126 of them, who all said they were Syrian, and had identified three Egyptian crew members as the possible traffickers.
Seventy-seven migrants — who said they were from Nigeria and Ghana — arrived on another boat, a small dinghy, which was intercepted and taken to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa earlier on Monday.
Italian police also said they had found 15 more migrants on the coast in Sicily — part of a group of around 30 that landed overnight on a fourth vessel. [AFP]