- immigration - Italy
AFP - Italy on Tuesday deported 38 Egyptians within days of their arrival on tiny Lampedusa island, officials said, as figures showed a 75 percent increase in illegal immigrants arriving in 2008.
The Egyptians, who were among some 2,300 migrants who set foot on Lampedusa, south of Sicily, between Friday and Sunday, were sent back to their homeland by plane, local officials in the Sicilian town of Agrigento said.
Figures released by the Italian Interior Ministry showed around 36,900 illegal migrants arrived on Italian shores in 2008, a 75 percent increase on 2007.
The majority -- around 31,000 -- arrived on Lampedusa, according to figures quoted by the ANSA news agency.
The latest expulsions followed an announcement Monday by Interior Minister Roberto Maroni of the anti-immigration and populist Northern League party that "those who arrive in Lampedusa will be repatriated within days, directly from Lampedusa."
Until now migrants arriving on the island between the north African coast and Sicily have been transferred to reception centres across Italy after spending a few days in Lampedusa.
Processing their possible asylum requests or residence permits then usually took several weeks or months.