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Refugees land on Italian island of Lampedusa

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Refugees land on Italian island of Lampedusa


A small fishing boat carrying 166 refugees fleeing unrest in Libya arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa on Friday, one day after European interior ministers met to debate restoring border controls across the continent.

Italian coastguards and rescue officials helped offload the passengers, most of whom were from sub-Saharan Africa.

The vessel left the Libyan capital of Tripoli early on Thursday morning.

Lampedusa is often used by immigrants as a route into Europe. The island is just 200 kilometres off the coast of Tunisia.

Their numbers have risen over the past four months after the recent popular uprisings in north Africa.

According to a series of international agreements, migrants who can prove they are fleeing unrest are eligible for asylum anywhere inside the European Union.

A diplomatic row erupted recently when France turned back Tunisian refugees at its border with Italy.

Both Paris and Rome have lobbied for border controls to be restored across the Schengen Area — a group of 25 European countries which allow passport-free travel between their borders.

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