Officers said it was the first time that illegal immigrants were able to land on the island.

Jean-Jacques Casalot, a police officer, told French television: “We were obviously quite surprised to see these Kurds reach Corsica, because generally they appear on the Italian coast.”

The immigrants, including 38 children, five pregnant women and a disable person, were housed in a gymnasium in the nearby town of Bonifacio and examined by doctors and the Red Cross.

Such landings are not unusual on Italian islands to the south of Corsica, but are very rare on French territory. Interpreters said the trip appeared to have begun in Tunisia.