18 Aug 2011

War fugitive numbers rising

11:17 am on 18 August 2011

The number of African migrants arriving in Italy in overcrowded boats this week, fleeing the fighting in Libya, has risen sharply.

Officials say more than 3000 people have reached the island of Lampedusa - 200km off the coast of Tunisia - in the past few days. Recent good weather has been a factor.

On Tuesday night, the Italian coastguard intercepted a boat with 300 migrants including women and children.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees said 52,000 people had arrived in Italy from North Africa since the start of the year.

More than half of them left from Libya, although there were few Libyan nationals among the arrivals.

The UNHCR also reported this week that more than 1500 people had died at sea trying to make the journey.