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Last Updated: Friday, 30 December 2005, 22:16 GMT
Italy warns Morocco on migrants
Immigrants at a port in Sicily
Other would-be migrants have drowned en route to Italy
Italy has complained to Morocco about a large increase in the number of immigrants entering Italy illegally.

The Moroccan ambassador to Italy was summoned to the foreign ministry in Rome to receive the complaint.

Italian police said the number of Moroccans and other Africans getting to Italy had increased in recent months.

They say the rise is due to the erection in September of razor wire barriers around the Spanish north African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

No numbers

People prevented from entering the EU illegally through Spain now cross the Mediterranean in small boats to Italy with the help of people smugglers via Algeria and Libya, the Italian government has alleged.

Italy's Interior Minister, Giuseppe Pisanu told a cabinet meeting in Rome that one third of all illegal immigrants seeking to enter Italy during the past two months came from Morocco.

Border fence in Melilla
Spain has reinforced its enclave's fences

This was 15 times as many as were intercepted during the same period in 2004, he said.

The minister gave no details as to the numbers involved.

According to Medecins Sans Frontieres, the police, and charitable aid organisations between 100,000 and 250,000 people, try to enter the EU illegally each year through Italy.

Tens of thousands are regularly deported to their home countries under a stiff new immigration law passed there two years ago.

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