Eight people died when a fishing boat attempting to smuggle nearly 90 Egyptians to Italy capsized following an argument between the passengers and the captain, police said Saturday.

The fishing craft left Egypt for the nearly 1,000 mile (1,500 kilometer) journey to Italy on Thursday, carrying 87 Egyptian men in their 20s hoping to find work in Europe, said an official.

Off the coast of Italy, the fisherman told the men to swim the rest of the way, but they refused and in the ensuing argument the passengers demanded to be returned to Egypt. It was just off the coast of the Egyptian village of Edko, however, that the boat capsized.

The Egyptian Coast Guard was able to rescue 80 people late on Friday, but eight did drown.

Each of the immigrants had paid the equivalent of US$7,000 (euro5,000) to the smuggler, the official added.

Every year thousands of Egyptians make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, often via Tunisia or Libya, to southern Europe searching for work.

Last December, 648 Egyptian immigrants reached Italy in a 23 meter (82 foot) fishing boat.