Some 350 Tunisian migrants arrived by boat on March 2 on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, the first in a week amid Italian fears of a wave of North Africans fleeing turmoil at home.
Local police said the boat arrived overnight, and that the migrants were in good condition.
More than 6,000 Tunisians have crossed the Mediterranean and made it to Lampedusa, which is closer to Africa than to the Italian mainland, since the mid-January ouster of their long-time President and a breakdown in coastal patrols. Poor weather and rough seas had prevented the arrivals over the past week.
Italy fears that unrest in Libya will prompt a massive influx of illegal immigrants, and has asked its European allies to help deal with it.
“We believe there are about 1.5 million illegal immigrants in Libya, some estimate even 2.5 million,” Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told a parliamentary committee on March 2.
He said these migrants had arrived in Libya because of poor patrols on the country's southern border, and are now fleeing the unrest following the uprising against Muammar Qadhafi's regime.
“The crisis in Libya is causing these people to go toward the east, the west; nobody is going south to go back to their countries of origin,” Maroni said. “I expect that as soon as the situation allows it they will go north.”