Bodies Of 14 Immigrants Found Off Italian Island


Agence France Presse — English
August 14, 2007 Tuesday 8:29 PM GMT

Italy’s coastguard said Tuesday it had found the bodies of 14 illegal
immigrants, some of them still wearing life-jackets, floating in
waters off an Italian island between Malta and Tunisia.

The crew of an Italian navy aircraft spotted the bodies about 90
kilometres (55 miles) south of the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa,
the coastguard told AFP. An Italian helicopter and several vessels
were heading for the zone.

An Italian police boat had begun recovering the 14 bodies from the
water, some of which were clad in life jackets, said a spokesman for
the coastguard at Palermo, on the southern Italian island of Sicily.

They were working to recover them and had not ruled out finding more
bodies. According to the ANSA news agency, there was no sign of a
boat in the surrounding waters, which fall under Malta’s jurisdiction.

Southern Italy and Malta face a constant influx of mostly north
African immigrants who risk their lives trying to reach Europe,
often in small boats.

More than 100 illegal immigrants had been spotted or intercepted
at sea off Lampedusa or arrested on the island on Tuesday alone,
ANSA reported.

According to the UN refugee agency, 77 people died and 133 went missing
in June after trying to cross the Strait of Sicily that divides Italy
from northern Africa.

Last month, four people died and 12 went missing when a boat turned
over in those waters, while in June a ship carrying immigrants went
down south of Sicily leaving 14 people dead and 11 missing.

Earlier on Tuesday, Italian coastguards said they had picked up 7,010
illegal immigrants alive from the sea since the start of the year.

These included 2,500 intercepted in July, coastguard chief Raimondo
Pollastrini told ANSA, while more than 1,600 people were found after
they managed to land in Italy.

The figures are a marked reduction on those from last year, when
some 16,000 people were intercepted in Italian waters between January
and September.

Italian association ARCI called on parliament to adopt a new law that
would allow for immigrant workers to come to the country legally.

"It’s the only way to fight against the dying on our borders," said
ARCI official Filippo Miraglia.

In a separate development, Italy expelled 17 would-be Kurdish
immigrants from Iraq after they were found hidden in a truck which
arrived in the southeastern port of Brindisi from Greece on Monday,
border police said.

Two men, a Turk and an Armenian, were arrested for trying to smuggle
them in.

On Monday, 26 Iraqis and two Iranians were arrested in the same region
for trying to sneak into Italy from Greece.