Immigrants deported, UN says Italy to respect to their rights
UN official said the move raised the risk of "generalised expulsions".
Italy will send back illegal immigrants who arrive on its shores starting from Tuesday, after an unexpected wave of arrivals around Christmas overwhelmed its holding centres for migrants, the interior minister said.
Thirty eight Egyptians will be flown to Cairo on Tuesday, the first group to be deported under the new plan announced by Italy's right-wing government which has made cracking down on illegal immigration a top priority since coming to power in May.
Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, a member of the anti-immigration Northern League, said Italy faced an emergency after some 2,000 immigrants arrived on the southern island of Lampedusa since Christmas.
"I have arranged for the activation of a centre suitable for identification and expulsion," Maroni told Italian radio.
A spokeswoman for UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, said the move raised the risk of "generalised expulsions" and appealed to the government to respect the rights of immigrants.
"It is important, even in an emergency situation, to guarantee information on their rights and allow all those who express an interest in seeking asylum to be transferred as soon as possible to the appropriate centres," Laura Boldrini told the ANSA news agency.
Italy's long shoreline and proximity to Africa make it a popular entry point into Europe for thousands of desperate migrants who set sail in rickety, crowded boats each year, many perishing along the way.
The number of illegal migrants who have arrived on Italian shores nearly doubled in the first seven months of the year, prompting Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government to declare a nationwide state of emergency in July.
Reuters Last Mod: 30 Aralık 2008, 17:59