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Italy: Scores of migrants land on beach in Sicily

Local mayor tells reporters migrants were probably all Tunisians after speaking with some of them
Italian police check small boat found abandoned near Agrigento, Sicily, on Sunday after migrants landed (AFP)

Italian police on Sunday corrected a report that a record 400 migrants had landed on a beach in Sicily, saying the number was only about 70, the ANSA news agency reported.

A single wooden fishing boat about 10 metres (35 feet) long was found on the beach near the southern Sicilian city of Agrigento, and a coastguard search backed by a helicopter failed to find a larger vessel they were searching for at sea, AFP reported.

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Witnesses had earlier told security forces that 400 migrants had arrived aboard two boats.

The mayor of the nearest village spoke to some of the migrants, telling reporters later that about 300 migrants might have arrived, and that they were probably all Tunisians.

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.

Thousands of young Tunisians attempt the often deadly sea crossing to Europe each year, driven by high unemployment at home.

MEE reported earlier this month, citing local reports, that groups of Tunisian migrants were managing to reach Italy as organised networks exploited the current situation to traffic more people while authorities were busy with coronavirus and the lockdown.

Smaller groups, mostly from Libya, have been more frequent arrivals.

According to Interior Ministry figures as of Friday, 4,445 migrants had arrived in Italy since the start of the year.