A ship packed with around 650 illegal immigrants has arrived in Sicily. It is one of the largest ever single landings of migrants on the southern Italian island. A port official said those on board were mostly Egyptians and included 21 women and seven children.
Last year, nearly 23,000 would-be refugees reached Italy. The latest boatload has sparked protests from the centre-right opposition which claims Romano Prodi’s government has gone soft on illegal immigration.
Spotted by fishermen, the vessel was intercepted and towed to the port of Licata. Those on board were being transferred to transit centres to be identified and have their asylum-seeker status checked.
Often paying thousnds of euros for their journey, immigrants are regularly repatriated, unless they can prove they are political refugees.