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Italy holds almost 500 immigrants

Immigrants disembark at the harbor of Crotone, southern Italy
Immigrants disembark at the harbor of Crotone, southern Italy  

ROME, Italy -- A fishing boat carrying 463 illegal immigrants has been intercepted off the southern coast of Italy.

All passengers, which included 60 children, were brought ashore, coastguard officials said.

The 35-metre (115 foot) boat, whose provenance and national flag are not known, was due to be escorted to the port of Crotone, where there is a "welcome centre" for immigrants.

But coastguards who boarded the vessel discovered it was taking on water and decided to beach it and take the passengers ashore using smaller craft.

"We counted 463 illegal immigrants," a port official at Soverato, on the Calabrian coast, told Reuters.

"We don't know where they are all from, but there are about 60 children and many young women."

Earlier port officials thought the boat could be carrying up to 600 passengers.

Thousands of illegal immigrants arrive on Italy's shores every month, mostly from Asia, North Africa and Eastern Europe.

Most do not stay in Italy but plan instead to make their way to Britain, France and Germany to find relatives and work.

At "welcome centres" around Italy, the legal status of immigrants is decided on a case-by-case basis.

Those with legitimate claims are permitted to apply for political asylum while most are expelled.

Earlier this month, the Greek authorities intercepted over 200 would-be illegal immigrants stranded off the island of Kos.

The immigrants were believed to have been heading for Italy.

The wave of people attempting to enter Italy through Greece has become an increasing problem.

In a separate incident days earlier, hundreds of migrants arrived in southern Italy in two boatloads.


• Greek Government
• Turkish Government

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