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Italians note uptick in illegal immigration

ROME, June 17 (UPI) -- As warm weather brings calmer seas, thousands of illegal immigrants are attempting to flee northern Africa for Europe, immigration officials say.

That has caused some immigration centers to run far above normal capacity -- and has made for some tragic consequences on the Mediterranean Sea, the Italian news agency ANSA reported Monday.

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Sunday night, seven immigrants attempting to get to Italy from North Africa drowned as they clung to tuna cages being dragged by a Tunisian fishing boat across the Strait of Sicily south of Malta, immigration officials said.

The islands of Lampedusa, Pantelleria and Malta provide stepping stones to the continent. On Lampedusa alone, an immigration center meant to hold no more than 300 people is packed with 855 and there are no plans to transfer any of those people in the near future.

Italy's Parliament will take up the issue of human trafficking in the wake of the rash of problems, Italian Lower House Speaker Laura Boldrini said.

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