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Italy evacuates refugees from Lampedusa

04-02-2011 08:15 BJT

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The Italian government has given the green light to the evacuation of refugees fleeing violence in northern Africa from the southern Mediterranean island of Lampedusa.

The operation began after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made an unexpected visit to the island. Our correspondent in Italy,

Lampedusa is on the brink of collapse. Boat after boat the tiny island has received in just three months some 20.000 migrants.

These are the last arrived. 110 people, mostly Tunisian. After security and health checks, the police authorities let them go because the center for immigrants is already packed.

They will spend their first days on European Union soil on the street in these improvised shelters with no proper toilets and some little food distributed by relief organizations.

Tunisian Immigrant, said, "The first night we slept on the ground "

Tunisian Immigrant, said, "Now we are sleeping in this sort of shelter. It’s been already five days. As you can see we have to shave like this. It’s a really bizarre situation ".

Finally the Italian Government has decided to set up a plan to evacuate the island. Military and commercial ships are coming here to take out the 6.000 Northern African migrants left on Lampedusa. Many of them will be taken to refugees' camps set-up for this occasion on mainland Italy.

For the inhabitants of Lampedusa today is a very special day. For the first time in the History of Italy the head of the government is taking a trip to the island. Silvio Berlusconi decided to show his support to a local population on the verge of a breakdown. All the local authorities, from the Mayor to the governor of Sicily, are on the stage ready to listen to what the Italian prime minister has to say.

Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Prime Minister, said, "From now on we will leave a ship here just off the island of Lampedusa ready to evacuate immediately new migrants coming in numbers."

Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Prime Minister, said, "The island had to endure the inconveniences of this situation for years and especially recently for the events in other countries."

Luigi Solina, Lampedusa Resident, said, "First of all I want to thank him for coming here because it is not easy to have a prime minister on Lampedusa. If the prime minister will make some efforts I think we will save our touristic season. Otherwise I don’t know"

Maria Costa, Lampedusa Resident, said, "I don’t believe him. The reason that I don’t believe is that he already made so many promises in Italy and he didn’t keep them."

The first evacuation ships began their operations this Thursday. The Italian authorities are regrouping on this wharf outside Lampedusa village centre as many migrants as possible. With a capacity of up to 1.700 passengers the evacuations of the island could be completed rapidly.

Silvio Berlusconi promised compensation for local inhabitants, as the touristic season may be in danger. The Italian prime minister announced that the island will be evacuated in 2 days and a half. But new boats overloaded with migrants from Northern Africa are already on their way.

 

Lampedusa residents protest during Premier Silvio Berlusconi visit
to this tiny Italian island, Wednesday, March 30, 2011, as ships
arrived to remove some of the thousands of North African migrants
who have overwhelmed it. (AP Photo/Antonello Nusca)

 

 

 


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