Posted on July 28, 2004

Nearly 500 Migrants Land In Italy

BBC News, Jul. 26

Nearly 500 migrants have arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa over the past two days, officials say.

Italian coastguards said they had identified 229 Bangladeshi, Iraqi and Palestinian refugees, and others were being questioned.

Another 100 people are thought to be preparing to land on the island, close to the coasts of Tunisia and Libya.

The Mediterranean island is a frequent target for migrants trying to enter the European Union illegally.

Reception centres

At least 230 people landed on Saturday, while an additional 79 people arrived on Sunday.

The island is too small to accommodate such numbers, and most of the migrants were flown to immigrant reception centres in Sicily or the Italian mainland, the AFP news agency reported.

Hundreds of people, mainly from Africa and Asia, have already tried to make the journey this year.

An unknown number have drowned in unseaworthy vessels.

The issue of illegal immigration has caused outrage in Italy.

Ealier this month, 37 Africans were denied asylum in Italy after being taken to Sicily by a German charity.

Their plight touched the Italian public, says the BBC’s David Willey in Rome, but the government is taking a tough line on illegal arrivals, tightening up a new, stricter immigration law which came into force two years ago.