At least 3,000 migrants cross into Italian waters | News | DW | 31.05.2014
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At least 3,000 migrants cross into Italian waters

Within 24 hours, Italian authorities have seen thousands of asylum seekers nearing their coastline near Sicily. Most of the refugees were said to be Syrian and Egyptian.

The Italian navy confirmed on Saturday that roughly 3,000 asylum seekers had crossed into Italian waters near Sicily. The influx occurred between Friday and Saturday.

In an interview with several European newspapers, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi renewed Rome's calls to the European Union to curb the sharp increase of asylum seekers.

The migrants, most of whom are believed to have started their crossing from Libya, were said to be mostly Syrian and North African.

"Europe has to call on the United Nations to intervene in Libya and more generally it must show a capacity to manage the immigration phenomenon," Renzi told the Italian daily La Stampa, according to Reuters news agency.

While not all of the makeshift boats had been brought to shore, Italian authorities reported an estimated 1,400 individuals making their way to their land on Friday, followed by at least 1,300 more on Saturday.

In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of migrants setting off in boats from the North African coast seeking to reach the EU, where they hope to build a better life. Political instability, social unrest and civil wars in countries like Libya has contributed to this problem. With it, the number of migrant deaths at sea has also increased. Some 60,000 asylum seekers crossed into Italy in 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring. Italian authorities have registered nearly 40,000 migrants this year.

Greece, Italy and Malta have repeatedly asked their fellow EU countries for help in handling the large numbers of migrants. Some 45,000 boat migrants, including thousands of children, made dangerous Mediterranean crossings to land in Italy and Malta in 2013, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

More than 350 people died last October in a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa. The boat of mainly Eritrean migrants was trying to reach Europe.

The aftermaths of several shipwrecks off of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa since 2013 have occupied EU leaders, who are considering changes to the 28-member bloc's migration policies.

kms/rc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)