ROME (Reuters) - Financial police in Italy said on Monday they had seized a fishing boat the previous night with 171 illegal immigrants onboard, including 34 children, that had been trying to enter the European Union undetected.
Police stopped the 25-metre boat off the coast of Calabria, the toe of the Italian boot, and escorted it to the port of Reggio Calabria, the police said in a statement. The immigrants appeared to be in good health.
Financial police said they were trying to identify the Greek-flagged boat’s crew, who may be charged with people trafficking.
Over the weekend, the Italian coastguard pulled 11 bodies from the sea off the coast of Libya, and rescued 70 others, when a motorised Italy-bound raft carrying Somali nationals sank.
Italy has borne the brunt of clandestine seaborne migration to southern Europe which has ebbed and flowed for several years.
Last year, tens of thousands of refugees and would-be migrants landed on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa during the Arab Spring uprisings, setting off a crisis that threatened to overwhelm the island.
Most migrants risk the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean Sea in small overcrowded fishing boats. Thousands have died as a result of shipwreck, harsh conditions at sea or a lack of food and water.
Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Andrew Osborn