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Last Updated: Friday, 1 October, 2004, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
More migrants reach Italian soil
By David Willey
BBC Rome correspondent

Boat arriving in Lampedusa last month
The Italian island of Lampedusa is a target for illegal immigrants
Another 800 illegal immigrants from Africa and the Middle East have landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The Italian authorities are organising an airlift to transport them to reception centres on the Italian mainland and in Sicily.

However, the authorities in Rome insist that most will eventually be sent back to their countries of origin.

People-smugglers have dumped thousands of refugees on Lampedusa, sometimes forcing them to swim to shore.

At least four boats crammed with hundreds of illegal immigrants have been escorted into port by coastguards and allowed to dock in Lampedusa during the past 24 hours.

The skipper of another vessel informed port authorities by satellite phone that he had broken down and needed assistance.

Migrant tide

Local facilities for feeding and sheltering thousands of new arrivals this summer are overloaded.

The authorities are being forced to charter planes and ferries to get them off this small island, which lives principally from fishing and tourism.

Lampedusa is the nearest geographical arrival point in the central Mediterranean for would-be immigrants seeking to enter the European Union by sea from North Africa.

The relentless tide of illegal immigrants landing at random on Italy's southern shores is having a political fallout in Rome.

Some right-wing politicians argue that the government's immigration policy has failed.

Italy recently signed an agreement with Libya aimed at halting the activities of people smugglers operating from Libyan ports.

But so far there is no sign that stricter new regulations on immigration are having a deterrent effect, despite official government figures showing that expulsions of illegal immigrants carried out during the past year are running at record levels.

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