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Mass breakout at southern migrant camp

Undocumented non-EU nationals slip through gap in fence

01 April, 16:57
Mass breakout at southern migrant camp (see related story on migrants) (ANSA) - Manduria, April 1 - Migrants staged mass breakaways from a camp in this southern Italian town, having been transferred there Friday after being part of a wave to land on the island of Lampedusa.

The migrants, part of a contingent of 1,700 mostly Tunisian migrants to be shipped from Lampedusa and taken to Manduria, managed to slip through a gap in the camp fencing left by firefighters working at the site.

The escape will feed fears that migrants will end up dispersed in the areas of temporary camps the government is setting up to accommodate almost 20,000 people who have arrived in Italy this year following unrest in North Africa.

Local people have staged protests at camps in other parts of Italy and Interior Ministry Undersecretary Alfredo Mantovano quit Wednesday over the number of people being sent to Manduria, part of his home patch.

Italian media have shown footage of smaller-scale breakouts from other centres over the last few days.

Earlier on Friday, migrants protested as officials visited the Manduria camp, shouting ''freedom'' in French, with some complaining about a lack of food.

''This situation is a real scandal,'' said Angelo Bonelli, the leader of Italy's Green party and one of the officials to visit the camp.

''The interior ministry has known for a month about the landings from Tunisia.

''It could have planned. Instead there is a situation the local communities are rightly worried about, which is threatening to cancel out their sense of hospitality''. A group of Manduria locals said they were starting a petition to call for the migrants to be spread more evenly around different parts of Italy. Around 1,500 migrants are set to be accommodated at another big camp at Turin's Arena Rock concert venue.

A meeting on Friday with ministers and Italy's regions failed to generate an agreement on relocating migrants who landed on Lampedusa after governors expressed doubts about the central government's plans for temporary camps.

Another meeting has been set for Tuesday.

photo: migrants escape from the Manduria camp.