People smugglers disembark migrants near beach in Sicily

Italian police detain and check immigrants found along the road and in the countryside in Palma di Montechiaro near Agrigento, Sicily on May 24, 2020.
Italian police detain and check immigrants found along the road and in the countryside in Palma di Montechiaro near Agrigento, Sicily on May 24, 2020. AFP - SANDRO CATANESE

People smugglers managed to disembark an estimated 70 migrants, probably all Tunisians, from two boats near a beach in Sicily on Sunday before sailing away, the Italian news agency ANSA reported, citing police.

Advertising

It was initially reported that some 400 migrants had landed on the beach and the incident sparked a helicopter search for their vessels.

This report said the boats dropped the migrants off a few metres (yards) from shore near the historic town of Agrigento in southern Sicily.

The coastguard backed by a helicopter searched for boats, ANSA said.

The migrants left the beach in small groups, setting off across the island, local press reports said.

Some stopped motorists to ask for water or for a ride, the Agrigento Notizie daily said.

The local mayor told reporters the migrants were likely all Tunisians after speaking to some of them.

Italian authorities said 52 people, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, arrived Sunday aboard a boat no more than 10 metres (35 feet) long on the small island of Linosa near Italy's southernmost island Lampedusa.

On Saturday, about 20 people arrived on board a rubber dinghy, among the bathers, on a beach in Marsala, a town in eastern Sicily.

In addition, six Tunisians managed to dock with a tiny boat in Lampedusa on Saturday, while 40 of their compatriots were then intercepted near the island's coastline and escorted to the port by the coastguards.

A boat carrying seven people also docked in Sardinia on Friday evening.

According to interior ministry figures as of Friday, 4,445 migrants have arrived in Italy since the start of the year.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning