Eight purported Islamic fundamentalist preachers arrested for being in Italy illegally are being summarily expelled.
Police said the men were Palestinians who had been touring Italy’s Umbria region for the past month in two vans.
When stopped by officers at a checkpoint near the town of Perugia on Monday, they were found to have no residence permits and were arrested.
They are among hundreds of foreigners discovered to be in Italy illegally who are now being expelled each month.
The men were put on an internal flight to Milan, where they were expected to be transferred to another plane and expelled from Italy.
Passengers at Perugia airport were startled to see the bearded preachers in their white robes with a large police escort being accompanied on to a plane on Tuesday afternoon.
The immigration office in Rome said more than 1,300 illegal immigrants had been formally expelled in the past two months alone.
However, police resources are stretched and fewer than half of these were actually escorted to the frontier to ensure that the expulsion orders were carried out.
Fewer still are actually escorted to their countries of origin because of the high costs involved.
It was not yet clear to which country the Palestinian preachers were initially being sent nor whether they would have a police escort as they left Italy.
Police have said they are making further investigations into their activities in the country.