Eric Besson, France's minister for immigration, has said a search was on for the smugglers who left over a hundred refugees on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica.
Identifying the illegal immigrants as Kurds from Syria and Tunisians, Besson told French television on Saturday that a suspicious boat had been spotted in international waters and was likely to be stopped by neighbouring Italian authorities.
“We cannot let the Mediterranean fall into the hands of human traffickers,” Besson said.
Some 124 refugees were left on Friday morning on a beach in southern Corsica, according to local police.
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.