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Monday, 31 July, 2000, 01:03 GMT 02:03 UK
Italians halt migrant boat
The Italians believe the Kalsit came from a Turkish port
Italian coastguards detained 418 people on Sunday for illegally entering the country on a ship, prompting an angry response from the government that neighbouring countries were not doing enough to control human trafficking.

The 50m-long vessel, Kalsit, was picked up in the early morning off the coast from Crotone, in the south of the country.

This new episode...will bring a strong and resolute protest

Italy's Interior Ministry
It was carrying mostly men, from a number of countries, including Kurds, Afghans, Sri Lankans, Nigerians and Sierra Leoneans.

The ship was believed to have begun its journey at a Turkish port four days ago, stopping at a Greek port to pick up food, officials said.

'Irritating' episode

Italy's interior ministry gave an unusually sharp response to the incident.

Kalsit bow
The migrants on board came from a number of countries
"This new episode is deeply irritating, and it will bring a strong and resolute protest," the ministry said.

"If this reconstruction of the itinerary followed by the boat can be confirmed, we will treat it as a very serious occurrence."

Italy has urged Turkey and Greece in recent months for tighter controls at their ports to stop the flow of illegal immigrants.

The ministry said the five-member Turkish crew had been detained by police for suspected human trafficking.

The crew had drawn suspicion of local police after they were seen carrying cellular telephones and large wads of dollar bills and Turkish pound notes.

Albanian alliance

The incident comes after fresh efforts from the Italian government to tackle the problem.

Kalsit passengers
The men were jubiliant to reach Italy, but they may not receive a warm reception
On Friday, Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato travelled to Albania to discuss the issue.

Criminal gangs have a lucrative trade smuggling immigrants from Albania, a business that escalated in the last decade following the fall of communism.

On Saturday, Italian television reported that the Albanian government had agreed to allow Italian police to operate inside Albania.

"Joint Italian and Albanian police task forces should from now on be able to hunt down the Albanian mafia's hideouts, seeking out bunkers and logistical bases, and the boatyards where the dinghies are fitted out, hidden and repaired," the television report said.

The Albanian government also recently passed new laws to help stop smuggling of immigrants.

Italy is one of the main doorways for illegal immigrants into Europe, partly because of its long coast.

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