More than 200 sea migrants have arrived on Italian shores over the weekend, while another 71 were intercepted and returned to Libya by the Libyan coastguard.
Between late Saturday and early Sunday, some 151 people arrived on Italy's Lampedusa island in seven small boats, the ANSA news agency reported.
There were also landings of some 40 Algerians in Sardinia and 33 Tunisians in Pantelleria, a small island like Lampedusa roughly halfway between Sicily and Tunisia.
According to ANSA, it is likely that the migrants were brought out to sea by traffickers on large fishing boats, and made to continue their journey on small vessels just outside Italian territorial waters.
Meanwhile, the Libyan navy said in a statement that a coastguard patrol intercepted 71 people on a migrant boat at dawn on Sunday near the coastal city of al-Khoms, east of the capital Tripoli.
The migrants, from Sudan, Egypt, the Palestinian Territories, Syria and Pakistan, all disembarked at a coastguard point in al-Khoms and were provided with medical and humanitarian assistance, it added.
Earlier Sunday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Libya tweeted about the rescue of ‘Some 70 migrants who were in distress ... for at least two days and whose boat was reported to have capsized.’ Libya descended into chaos following the 2011 revolt that toppled long-time dictator Moamer Gaddafi. The country is a major transit route for migrants, mostly Africans, trying to enter Europe.
According to Italian Interior Ministry data, sea migrant landings have increased this month for the first time, after constant year-on-year falls since the start of 2018.
As of September 27, there have been 1,952 arrivals, compared to 947 in the whole of September 2018. Since January 1, just over 7,000 people have arrived, down from around 21,000 in the whole of 2018.
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