Italy has warned it is facing a humanitarian crisis with hundreds of would-be migrants from Tunisia and Egypt arriving in Italian waters following unrest in their home countries.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, of the anti-immigrant Northern League party that backs stiff immigration limits, sounded the alarm Friday.

About 1,000 would-be migrants have arrived over the past three days in Lampedusa, an island closer to Africa than the Italian mainland.

Their high numbers have been an anomaly, given the general reduced flow of illegal immigrants that have resulted from Italy's policy of returning would-be migrants without screening them first for asylum.

Italy also has agreements with Libya and other north African countries to stem the tide on their end.