Italy shipped more than 200 migrants who had been rescued in the Mediterranean Sea back to Libya on Thursday as Rome pressed its crackdown on illegal immigration.
Customs and border police Cmdr. Francesco Maugeri, based on the tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa, told The Associated Press that 227 migrants were sent back to Tripoli aboard two coast guard boats and a third border police boat.
"Some of the migrants were suffering symptoms probably caused by exhaustion and cold" but none had serious health problems, he said.
Italy contends the clandestine migrants had set out in smugglers' boats from Libyan shores.
Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, speaking on private Italian Canale 5 TV, praised Libya's acceptance of the migrants as a possible "turning point" in the crackdown on illegal immigration.
Only Wednesday, Italy and the island nation of Malta had appeared headed for their latest standoff over which nation should take in the migrants.