One man is believed to have died as 44 illegal immigrants landed in Malta yesterday morning.

It is the second group of immigrants to land in Malta in 10 days after a two-month lull.

The police were alerted about the arrival in Marsascala by campers at the former Jerma Hotel site and the immigrants were arrested by police when they landed.

They arrived on board a 30-foot long rubber dinghy, and claimed to have left Libya some four days ago.

The group, including two women, said they were from Somalia, Mali, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Guinea.

They also claimed that one man who belonged to the same group had died in transit and was thrown overboard during the journey. No further details were made available.

A group of 28 Somalis, including six women, had arrived in St Thomas Bay, Marsascala on July 14.

Despite yesterday's arrivals, official figures show Malta has so far this year received the lowest number of boat landings since 2003 and the lowest number of immigrants since 2005. Human trafficking in the Mediterranean has gone down drastically in recent months due, it is believed, to an agreement between Libya and Italy.

At the same time, Italy embarked on a new policy to immediately send back to Libya those rescued at sea.

Humanitarian groups have expressed concern over the move, saying some immigrants may be being denied their right to asylum.

Last week, EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot told Italy that it could not return immigrants to countries where their life was threatened.

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