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Berlusconi pledges to free Lampedusa of migrants

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Berlusconi pledges to free Lampedusa of migrants

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The evacuation of thousands of migrants from the Italian island of Lampedusa is gathering pace, with a pledge they will all be gone within three days.

The commitment came from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, on a visit to the tiny scrap of land at the centre of a humanitarian crisis. He told cheering residents that in the next 48-60 hours, Lampedusa would be inhabited only by the people of Lampedusa.

Berlusconi’s government has faced an outcry over its failure to solve the crisis. Now, after weeks of inactivity, it has sent ships to the island to move all the migrants to holding centres elsewhere in Italy.

Around 19,000 have arrived on overloaded boats since the start of the year when the fall of Tunisia’s President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali loosened previously strict border controls.