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Sunday, August 1, 1999 Published at 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK

World: Europe

Gypsy boat intercepted by Italy

About half the passengers on the Milos were children

A tugboat carrying more than 1,000 illegal immigrants has landed in southern Italy after being intercepted by immigration authorities.

Those on board the boat were said to be gypsies who had set off from Montenegro. About half of them were children, the authorities said.

[ image: Roma in camps in Kosovo are suspected of collaboration with Serb forces]
Roma in camps in Kosovo are suspected of collaboration with Serb forces
The vessel, called the Milos, was taken under Italian military escort to the port of Bari where the passengers greeted their arrival with enthusiastic applause.

Italy's Ansa news agency quoted one of the arrivals who said gypsies - known as Roma - were being "hunted" by Kosovo Albanians.

"We have nothing, we have no homes, we have nothing to eat, and above all, we're afraid, afraid of being killed," the man said.

Illegal immigrants

Italy has said it will not grant refugee status to new arrivals from Kosovo and would consider all those without visas as illegal immigrants who can be deported swiftly.

Many new arrivals have been taken to reception centres, which often provide illegal immigrants with a first stop on the way into other western European countries.

These latest passengers were taken for medical examination and identification, and then on to reception centres.

One report says the authorities took two men from Romania into custody because they were suspected of being immigrant traffickers.

Many gypsies are believed to be fleeing Kosovo because they fear reprisals from returning Kosovo Albanians, who accuse them of collaborating with the Serbian forces.

Thousands are thought to have landed illegally in Italy since the end of the Kosovo war.

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