Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Italy saves 200 more African illegal immigrants

Agence France-Presse:

The Italian Coast Guard rescued 200 illegal immigrants from a boat found adrift Monday off the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, according to an official in Palermo.

The boat, about 15 meters, or 50 feet, long, had been spotted drifting about 75 kilometers, or 45 miles, from the coast, the official said. The rescue was complicated by the bad weather.

Rescue teams also continued their search around Lampedusa for the bodies of 60 would-be immigrants still missing and feared drowned after their two boats sank Sunday.

The authorities said that four frigates were searching an area near where an inflatable boat sank with the presumed loss of 20 lives. Ten bodies were recovered Monday after 10 survivors and one body were picked up the day before.

Survivors said that 70 people had died in two sinkings.

In addition, 47 migrants arrived on Lampedusa and neighboring Pantelleria, following 54 people who made landfall in two craft on Lampedusa on Saturday and Sunday.

Lampedusa, which lies about 200 kilometers south of Sicily on the route from Libya to Italy, is a favored destination for African migrants seeking to enter Europe.

Transport Minister Alessandro Bianchi criticized Libya for not doing more to prevent migrants from casting off from its shores.

"No negotiations are possible when there are crowds of desperate people thrown into nothing more than floating carts," Bianchi said during a visit to Lampedusa, according to an account from the ANSA press agency. "We will try to convince the Libyan government that immigration problems, especially with this dramatic angle, cannot be part of negotiations under which they give something only in exchange for something back."

In recent years, Italy has urged Libya to clamp down on illegal immigrants traveling through its territory, but people have washed up on Italy's shores in ever greater numbers this summer, many of them dying during their voyages.

According to the Interior Ministry, 178 vessels carrying 10,414 people arrived in Lampedusa from Jan. 1 to July 31 this year, higher than the 6,901 arrivals in the same period in 2005.

Illegal Migrants Reach Sicilian Islands

Death in the Water

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