Italy's interior minister has agreed to meet a cross-party delegation of MEPs in response to a letter sent him by members of the European Parliament's Justice and Civil Liberties Committee concerning the treatment of illegal immigrants detained in the government's temporary reception centre on the Italian island of Lampedusa. No date has yet been set for the meeting.
Rights groups have also levelled criticism at the Italian government over its treatment of the many thousands of illegal immigrant who arrive on the island each year by boat from North Africa. Hundreds have been deported to Libya - one of the main transit countries - and at times nearly 1,000 migrants have been detained in the centre designed to hold a maximum of 200 people.
Besides the severe overcrowding, there have been reports of a lack of adequate sanitation and medical care, and improper administration of drugs at the holding centre, as well as reports of mistreatment of detainees by staff.
Over the past 18 months, Italy has drawn international criticism for its summary repatriation of many hundreds of would-be immigrants to North African countries with poor human rights records.
Particularly in the summer months, thousands of illegal migrants seeking a better life in Europe reach Italy - whose long coastline makes it an idea drop-off point for the people-smugglers' boats. Hundreds have tragically drowned during the perilous sea voyage, AKI reports.
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