February 13, 2011 in Nation/World

Tunisians fleeing to Italy

Associated Press

ROME – Italy ferried hundreds of Tunisians off a tiny Sicilian island Saturday to detention centers amid government fears that terrorists could mix in among the boatloads of people fleeing turmoil in North Africa.

But the exodus to Italian shores aboard rickety fishing vessels continued without letup.

By dawn, around 3,000 migrants had arrived by boat on Lampedusa over three days; hundreds more arrived during the day and several more boats were reportedly spotted on the horizon headed for the flat-rock, largely barren fishing island, Italian authorities said.

Coast guard officials on the eight-square-mile island were bracing for more boatloads of North Africans in the days ahead, especially since seas were calm.

Italian coast guard vessels and aircraft monitored the seas to try to spot smugglers’ boats heading toward Lampedusa, an island closer to North Africa than to mainland Italy.

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