As the conflict in Libya continues to rage, another boatload of migrants fleeing the violence has arrived on the Mediterranean island of Malta. Together with Italy, Malta is housing thousands of North African migrants.
Migrants continue to arrive on Malta and Lampedusa
A boatload of 281 migrants from Libya arrived on the small Mediterranean island of Malta late Tuesday, according to local media, bringing the total number of irregular arrivals to the EU member state to more than 800 in the last 24 hours.
The boats were believed to have sailed from the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and were picked up by Maltese escort boats and guided to Cirkewwa port on the northern tip of the island, the Times of Malta daily reported.
Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR, said migrants on the most-recently arrived vessel were mainly Eritreans and Somalis who had fled the ongoing violence in Libya as forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi continued to battle rebels being supported by the Western military alliance, NATO.
She said there were "many women and children among them, but there are also Ethiopians, Sudanese and a number of other nationalities. To date, Libyans do not appear to be among those arriving..."
Malta has just under half a million inhabitants
"UNHCR is grateful to Italy and Malta for their reception of the new arrivals from Libya and urges other European Union countries to demonstrate solidarity with these frontline countries," Fleming said.
Most of the migrants are being kept in the detention centers in Hal Far and Safi, while families are being kept in open centers.
Fleming added that plans were being discussed with Italian and Maltese authorities and the International Red Cross on how to deal with the possible arrival of more people fleeing Libya.
The UNHCR has issued a warning that refugee centers on Malta were being "stretched." It said more than 2,000 non-Libyan migrants had arrived in Malta and Italy from Tripoli since the outbreak of conflict there. Malta has a population of around 400,000.
The Italian island of Lampedusa, meanwhile, was struggling to cope with over 6,000 Tunisian migrants who have fled revolution back home. The island has a population of only around 5,000.
Author: Darren Mara (Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Rob Turner