Rome: Four boats with about 1,000 migrants fleeing the conflict in Libya arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa overnight, leading the Italian premier to cancel his visit, the ANSA news agency reported on Saturday.

Among the 1,041 new arrivals were 122 women, many of them pregnant, and 33 children, it said. The boats were escorted to shore by the Italian coast guard and customs officials.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who had been expected to visit the island on Saturday, called off his trip so as not to hinder relief operations, ANSA said.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 11,000 Africans fleeing conflicts in north Africa have landed in southern Italy, in increasing numbers since NATO air raids on Libya began in mid-March and the weather improved.

According to the Catholic organisation of Sant'Egidio, at least 1,820 migrants from north Africa, most originally from south of the Sahara, have drowned this year in the Mediterranean in their bid to reach Europe.