With 36 shipped-wrecked Sudanese and one other African national now waiting a decision as to whether or not they will be allowed to disembark in Sicily, the figures from the countrys statistics institute, ISTAT, show that the number of people who have come ashore illegal in Italy has dropped significantly this year.

In the three southern regions of Puglia, Calabria and Sicily 1,752 people came ashore illegally up to the end of May this year, compared with 3,936 in the same period in 2003 and 9,737 in 2002.

The ISTAT figures show that there were no illegal disembarkations in Puglia (compared with 81 in the same period in 2003 and 2,567 in 2002). There were 12 in Calabria (compared with 177 in 2003 and 1,241 in 2002) and 1,740 in Sicily (compared with 3,678 in 2003 and 5,929 in 2002).

An Italian government decision will probably turn on whether the people rescued by the German ship three weeks ago from Maltese waters will be classified as ship-wrecked or as illegal immigrants.