The Mediterranean island of Lampedusa is the first point of arrival for people seeking asylum or looking to keep moving north to other European countries.
A flotilla of flimsy boats, crowded with migrants and launched from Tunisia, overwhelmed a tiny southern Italian island on Wednesday, taxing the coast guard's capability to intercept the smugglers' vessels and sorely testing Premier Giorgia Meloni's pledge to thwart illegal migration.
Compounding the political pressure on Italy's first far-right leader were vows by France and Germany to rebuff migrants who arrive by sea on Italian shores, and in defiance of European Union asylum system rules, head northward to try to find jobs or relatives in those and other northern countries on the continent.
Starting early on Tuesday, the unseaworthy, unstable iron boats came one after the other in what appeared to be almost a procession to onlookers on Lampedusa, a fishing and tourist island south of Sicily.
Some 6,800 migrants came in a span of just over 24 hours, a number that is a few hundred higher than the isle's full-time population.