The human rights section of the European court of justice in Strasburg has given Italy until 6 May to explain the expulsion of illegal immigrants who landed on the island of Lampedusa in mid-March. The court is particularly interested in how the individual immigrants were identified and whether any of them had applied for political asylum.

Favourable weather conditions in March encouraged more than 1,000 people in North Africa to take to boats and make the crossing to Lampedusa, the most southerly Italian island in the Mediterranean. When they arrived on the island, large numbers of these illegal immigrants were disappointed when they were quickly rounded up, put on aircraft and sent back to Africa.