Italy Needs EU Help To Handle Tide Of
Refugees, U.N. Says
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[April 11, 2014]
GENEVA (Reuters) — An estimated
6,000 people, many of them Syrians and Eritreans, have been rescued by
Italy's navy in four days and thousands more asylum seekers keen to
reach Europe have gathered in Libya, the U.N. refugee agency on Friday.
The UNHCR urged the European Union to help Italy provide more
reception facilities and find "durable solutions" for asylum seekers
fleeing war and persecution.
UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the Italian navy had rescued
the migrants from more than 40 overcrowded boats in the
Mediterranean off the shores of Sicily and Calabria.
"Large numbers of women and children, including newborns and
unaccompanied children, are amongst them," she told a briefing.
There has been a 10-fold increase in arrivals of asylum seekers this
year compared to the start of 2013, she said.
"We expect these numbers to continue to rise. There are thousands in
Libya and more boats have been spotted."
Italy's interior minister, reporting that about 4,000 had been
rescued over the previous 48 hours, said on Wednesday that the
crisis was getting worse. He said 15,000 migrants had arrived in
Italy by sea so far this year.
The boats set off from Zwara in Libya and most of the asylum seekers
were from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Nigeria, Gambia, Mali and
Senegal, according to UNHCR.
"The Syria situation is getting worse and the neighboring countries
are becoming overwhelmed so that is causing many Syrians to decide
to travel to Europe to seek safety in search of protection in
countries in Europe," Fleming said.
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Syria has already created a refugee population of over 2.6 million
in Syria's neighbors and Egypt, but UNHCR estimates hundreds of
thousands more have fled the country without registering as
Rome has repeatedly urged the European Union to take a greater role
in policing the seas as two-thirds of migrants who reach Italy
travel onwards to other countries in the region.
"Italy needs support from the EU in increasing its reception
possibilities," Fleming said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Alison Williams)
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