ROME (AP) _ Italy began releasing dozens of illegal immigrants from Sicilian detention centers Wednesday, after officials were unable to process their cases in time. Some were sent home, but others were handed formal expulsion papers and set free.

A new law intended to curb illegal immigration allows authorities to detain illegal arrivals while identification checks are run. But the law only allows for 30 days detention, and when the paperwork isn't completed in time, authorities have to let the immigrants go.

Authorities have been rushing to identify about 3,000 people, most of them Africans, who sailed to Italy illegally. About 700 immigrants have been identified and are expected to be sent home.

Once released, the immigrants are virtually free to wander through Italy and northern Europe in search of black-market jobs or relatives.