256 illegal migrants, including 34 women and 25 children and teenagers, arrived by boat in Lampedusa, off the coast of Sicily, after being rescued by Italian coastal police.
The 15-metre trawler, on which they were packed, was spotted by air and then escorted to the harbour by a military boat. The migrants were then transferred to a holding centre on the island, where they will be held for identification.
Thousands travel to Italy's southern coast and islands every year, hoping to start a new life. The holding centre on Lampedusa is often well over its 200 capacity, and the huge influx of immigrants prompted Italy to adopt its harsh and heavily-criticised policy of shipping new arrivals straight back. Last year, Italy signed an agreement with Libya under which it agreed to assist Libya in patrolling its coastline.
Groups such as Human Rights Watch oppose a proposal from some European Union member states to establish offshore asylum processing centers in Libya, arguing that the country has failed to ratify the 19951 Refugee Convention and has no functioning asylum system, the AKI reports.