Migrants escape Italian tent camp

AP News
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Posted: Apr 01, 2011 3:32 PM
Migrants escape Italian tent camp

Hundreds of North African immigrants fled from a camp in southern Italy on Friday, as Premier Silvio Berlusconi described a migration wave hitting the Italian shores a "human tsunami."

The migrants had been transferred from the overcrowded island of Lampedusa into a tent camp in the southern Italian town of Manduria.

The overcrowding of Lampedusa, an island of 5,000 residents closer to Africa than to mainland Italy, has raised hygiene concerns and forced authorities to organize transfers of migrants.

Some 22,000 people, mostly from Tunisia, have arrived on this tiny Italian island since the start of the year. Berlusconi called the migration wave brought about by unrest across North Africa a "human tsunami."

To cope with the crisis, Italy wants EU nations to share the burden and take in some of migrants.

Berlusconi talked to EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Friday and both agreed the migrant crisis concerns all Europe and must be solved at EU level, according to a statement released by the Italian premier's office.

The statement said "Barroso reiterated the Commission's commitment for a more proactive solidarity with Italy" but did not specify what this might entail.

Berlusconi, however, said that repatriations are the main solution to the crisis.

The Italian leader will travel to Tunisia on Monday to press his case and offer help, including money and supply of police equipment for a total value of euro100 million ($140 million).