Another 28 illegal immigrants landed in Malta yesterday morning, capping a difficult week for the immigration authorities.

The immigrants, 22 men and six women, were intercepted just a mile off Marsaxlokk harbour.

Late on Friday night a merchant vessel reported that 35 nautical miles from Marsaxlokk it had been approached by a boat full of illegal migrants. With the sea conditions in the area being fairly good, they all appeared to be in good health.

By the time the Armed Forces' patrol boat intercepted the fibre-glass boat, it was at a standstill idling in the water with engine failure and taking in water. The boat was towed into harbour, and berthed alongside the Freeport at the Wied il-Buni quayside.

On Thursday, three dead women, one of them pregnant, three babies and another two children were among the 180 African immigrants brought to Malta.

Frontex has admitted that its patrols in the Mediterranean are not the answer to Malta's illegal immigration problem because Libya continues to resist co-operation.

Statistics seen by The Times show that, despite having been in operation for six months, the Frontex mission - the biggest that it has co-ordinated off Malta's shores - has not prevented the number of illegal immigrants from soaring.

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