Italy's proximity has made it a magnet for illegal migrants seeking to flee the political turmoil convulsing North Africa. During the many weeks while the Italian government claims it was waiting for both help from the European Union member states and an opportunity to strike a deal with the Tunisian government to jointly patrol the North African coastline, some 20,000 migrants arrived on the small Sicilian island of Lampedusa. Because the single refugee centre there accommodates only 850 people, Lampedusa's 5,000 inhabitants fiercely protested the influx, which quicly turned into a sanitary and humanitarian crisis. Migrants themselves also took to the streets to protest the conditions in which they were being held. On March 30, the government started transferring the migrants to refugee camps throughout Italy.
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