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Italy moves migrants to mainland

Italy has shipped more than 2,000 migrants to detention camps on the mainland, relieving pressure on a tiny island off Sicily overwhelmed by boats full of illegal arrivals from North Africa.

Lampedusa - a fishing and tourist island with a population of 5,000 - ran out of shelters days ago when migrant numbers peaked at more than 6,000, forcing many of the Tunisians and others to sleep in the open air on docksides and in fields.

Amnesty International said migrants have been left to fend for themselves in "appalling" conditions.

Soldiers, ordered in by the national government, joined local sanitation workers in ridding the island of piles of rubbish left by the departing migrants.

There was also concern about the minors among the migrants, which a Save the Children representative on the island, Filippo Ungaro, estimated number about 350. Under international conventions, they cannot be deported and should be put into temporary foster homes while asylum paperwork is processed.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi, pressured by anti-immigrant coalition allies, promised while touring the island on Wednesday that all of the migrants would be either deported to Tunisia or transferred to mainland detention centres within two to three days.

Mr Berlusconi complained that Tunisia should have stopped the boats from setting out from its waters.

Foreign minister Franco Frattini has voiced frustration that other European Union countries have done little or nothing to help relieve Rome of the migrant burden.

The illegal arrivals "must be deported either to Tunisia or be spread around to other European countries", Mr Frattini told Italian TV. "It's stunning that there is no solidarity from any of the European countries, including those which many Tunisians would want to reach... France."

While the Italian government has called on towns throughout the country to accept some of the migrants while they are processed for deportation or asylum, some southern politicians have protested that they are bearing the brunt of the arrivals, while they charge towns in the north - where anti-immigrant Berlusconi ally the Northern League is based - have done little to help.

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