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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 October 2006, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Italy holds fishing boat migrants
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More than 400 suspected illegal immigrants have been detained off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, coast guard officials say.

The suspected illegal immigrants crossed from Libya in a fishing boat.

The boat was intercepted after one of the immigrants used a mobile phone to contact the Italian police on Sicily asking for help, reports said.

Lampedusa is used as a landing point by thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter the EU from Africa.

Italy says more than 10,000 people arrived on Lampedusa in the first six months of this year alone.

Rights accusations

The latest group was of people mainly from North Africa and Eritrea and included 21 women and several children.

Police said the new arrivals would be transferred to reception centres on Sicily or on the Italian mainland for identity checking.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says few have documents, which makes repatriation more difficult.

The incident comes ahead of a meeting starting in Tripoli on 22 November between European and African officials who will discuss how to deal with the illegal immigration problem.

The increasing tide of immigrants has hit Italy and Spain in particular.

They are pushing for a common European Union policy on immigration.

Last month, Human Rights Watch accused Italy and Libya of abusing the human rights of African migrants trying to enter the EU.

It said Libyan and Italian authorities had forcibly repatriated thousands of foreigners.


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