Approximately 2000 new migrants in more than 20 boats arrived in Lampedusa on 14-15 March. Some were rescued and some reached Lampedusa on their own. One boat is believed to have sunk near Tunisia and approximately 35 persons are believed to be missing.
According to a UNHCR briefing yesterday, just over 10,000 migrants, nearly all young Tunisian men, have arrived in Italy since mid-January. UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said that “[t]he outflow from Tunisia is unrelated to the ongoing crisis in Libya. From our interactions with Tunisians arriving in Italy over past weeks, we believe that most are seeking employment and better economic opportunities, rather than international protection. UN staff and partners in Tunisia report that some villages appear largely empty of their young male population, with only women, children and elderly people remaining. This type of outflow is not atypical of countries in transition, and we are well aware of the many demands on the Tunisian authorities at present. Solutions to this type of flow need to be found in dialogue between the concerned governments, including arrangements for the orderly and dignified return of persons who are found not to be in need of international protection, and the establishment of opportunities for labor migration which can meet the needs of countries on both sides of the Mediterranean.”
The standoff with the Moroccan ferry, the Mistral Express, continues. The ship left Libya several days ago and is located in international waters about 20 miles from the port of Augusta, Sicily. Italian authorities have refused to permit the ship to enter Italian waters and are considering providing fuel to the ship while it remains at sea in order to prevent any of the 1800+ mostly Moroccan passengers from attempting to leave the ship and enter Italy.
Click here for UNHCR press briefing.