Rome, July 18 - More than 700 migrants arrived in less than 24 hours at the southern Italian port of Lampedusa, creating an emergency at the same place visited last week by Pope Francis. Coast Guard staff were struggling to rescue migrants on rafts and small ships arriving on the tiny island through the night in sometimes dangerous conditions. One patrol boat intercepted 69 migrants; another 31; yet another 188. Mid-morning Thursday, a Coast Guard aircraft spotted 200 people crowded on a 12-metre wooden boat in Libyan waters. The pope chose Lampedusa, closer to Africa than Italy, as his first trip as pontiff to focus attention on the many asylum seekers who die trying to cross the Mediterranean. "To the dear, Muslim immigrants...the Church is close to you in the search for a more dignified life for you and your families," the pope said on July 8 in Lampedusa. The southern Italian island receives thousands of migrants every spring and summer, who disembark from the North African coast. Yet its migrant holding centre was made to accommodate a maximum of just 300 people.