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Migrants swamp Italian island


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#16    Talon

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Posted 06 October 2004 - 11:03 AM

UN attacks Italy's refugee policy
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has criticised the way Italy has handled boatloads of migrants arriving on the southern island of Lampedusa.
UNHCR envoy Juergen Humburg says Italy has flown many of them back to Libya, without considering if any are in genuine need of political asylum.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is due to visit Libya on Thursday to discuss the crisis.

Italian radio says the expulsion flights will also resume on Thursday.

Rai Radio 1 said the flights stopped on Tuesday as Libya struggled to deal with the numbers of people being sent back.

Italy has sent at least 11 planeloads of migrants to Libya since Friday, in a dramatic change of policy, put into place after more than 600 arrived on Lampedusa in one night.

Numbers

More than 1,000 migrants, all claiming political asylum, have arrived from North Africa in the past few days. The island is the nearest geographical point of arrival in the European Union from North Africa.

Mr Humburg, sent to investigate the situation, left the island on Tuesday after he was denied entry to the detention centre where 500 of the latest arrivals were being held.

He said the Italian government had to find ways to identify the asylum-seekers and the refugees among them.

"It is not acceptable from our point of view to reject these people just because they arrive in big numbers," he said.

"If we find ways to have orderly departure programmes for example, of a higher resettlement quote which would allow refugees and asylum-seekers to reach European countries in conditions of safety I think it would be better for all.

"Even if we have mass influxes of people who are fleeing persecution and human rights violations, we cannot make it a question of numbers. They should be given access to a safe country, to asylum, to protection."

Visit

The Italian government has defended the policy, saying the repatriations will discourage people from setting off.

Mr Berlusconi's trip to Libya will be his second in less than two months. He is expected to discuss with Colonel Gaddafi ways of stemming the numbers of illegal immigrants heading for Italy.

A group of 21 illegal immigrants, mostly Eritreans, were rescued from their sinking canoe as they headed for Lampedusa overnight, according to French news agency AFP.

They were taken to a holding centre on the island.


Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...ope/3719528.stm



"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." -Plato

#17    Talon

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Posted 06 October 2004 - 11:04 AM

I actually have to defend Italy, as harsh an action as it is, we're getting tens of thousands of economic refugees a year comming to Europe. We can house all of them! What we should be doing is trying to make their countries more habitable, but we can't expect our economy to hold up Africa as well as Europe's populations.

"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." -Plato

#18    Talon

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Posted 06 October 2004 - 07:10 PM

Italy resumes expelling migrants
Italy has resumed the forced expulsions of migrants to Libya, brushing aside criticism from the United Nations.
The UN refugee agency says the expulsions, which first started at the weekend, are preventing migrants from applying for refugee status.

After the flights were halted on Tuesday, at least two military planes carrying refugees left the southern island of Lampedusa on Wednesday.

Italy says the expulsions will continue in the short term.

UNHCR envoy Juergen Humburg has accused Italy of preventing the agency from meeting the migrants.

The expulsions were triggered after more than 600 people arrived on Lampedusa in one night.
More than 1,000 migrants, all claiming political asylum, have arrived by boat from North Africa in the past few days. The island is the nearest geographical point of arrival in the European Union from North Africa.
Italy has sent about a dozen planeloads of migrants to Libya since Friday.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is due to visit Libya on Thursday to discuss the crisis.


Earlier, the Italian interior ministry said in a statement: "The process of expelling illegal immigrants who arrive by sea will be completed over the coming days as the situation evolves."

No official explanation was given for the suspension of the flights on Tuesday.


Numbers

Mr Humburg, sent to investigate the situation, left Lampedusa on Tuesday after he was denied entry to the detention centre where the latest arrivals were being held.


He said the Italian government had to find ways to identify the asylum-seekers and the refugees among them.
"It is not acceptable from our point of view to reject these people just because they arrive in big numbers," he said.

"Even if we have mass influxes of people who are fleeing persecution and human rights violations, we cannot make it a question of numbers. They should be given access to a safe country, to asylum, to protection."

The Italian government has defended the policy, saying the repatriations will discourage people from setting off.

Mr Berlusconi's trip to Libya will be his second in less than two months. He is expected to discuss with Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi ways of stemming the numbers of illegal immigrants heading for Italy.

Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgham told the BBC that the country was working with Italy to tackle immigration from "different dimensions".

A boat carrying 21 illegal immigrants arrived on Lampedusa overnight - the first arrivals in three days.


Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...ope/3721474.stm


"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." -Plato

#19    Erikl

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Posted 06 October 2004 - 08:57 PM

Yes here too we have immigration problem... when the Soviet Union collapsed, many soviet jews (about 750,000) immigrated to Israel under the law of return.
With them, another 250,000 non-Jewish Russians\Ukranians\Belarussians etc. forged Jewish roots in order to immigrate to Israel.
They are now number about 300,000, or 4% of the population.
Most of them are good citizens - as a matter of fact very patriotic citizens. But a large group among them brought anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism to Israel - spreading violence against Jews in neighborhoods where they make up a majority.
The only good thing about it is that their image of weak power-less kike is broken into peaces when they abuse Israeli Jews outside their neighborhoods - there were many times when Jews and neo-Nazis clashed in mixed neighborhoods, with the neo-Nazis being hospitalized grin2.gif

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#20    Talon

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Posted 07 October 2004 - 11:54 AM

Italy seeks Libya migrant deal
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is expected in Libya for talks on how to tackle illegal mass migration from North Africa.
More than 1,500 people have made the journey to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa in the past week alone.

Mr Berlusconi and Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi will also attend the opening of a 540km (335-mile) gas pipeline linking Libya with Sicily.

Italy has been criticised for sending hundreds of migrants back to Libya.

On Wednesday, the Italian authorities marched 400 handcuffed men onto military planes at Lampedusa airport and flew them back to Libya and Tunisia.

The expulsions were triggered after more than 600 people arrived in one night on Lampedusa - the nearest geographical point of arrival in the European Union - from North Africa.

No asylum

Mr Berlusconi and Mr Gaddafi are expected to discuss a controversial plan to set up reception centres in North Africa to process migrants before they set out to sea in an attempt to get to Europe.


In Tripoli, the Libyan Minister for National Security Nasser Mabruk told the AFP news agency that the illegal immigrants expelled by Italy in the past week were all Egyptian nationals and had been taken back to Egypt.

"More than 40,000 immigrants have been expelled by Tripoli; Libya has become a victim of clandestine immigration," he added.

Human rights campaigners have said Italy's rapid expulsions have prevented genuine refugees from claiming asylum.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said one of its representatives would be visiting the holding camp in Lampedusa, after the Italian government prevented earlier visits.

Rome has urged Tripoli to crack down on those responsible for smuggling migrants across the Mediterranean.

It has promised to give Libya equipment to detect and halt the boats, and pledged to help with training.

The situation was brought up during a visit to Tripoli by the French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, ahead of a visit by French President Jacques Chirac.

Mr Chirac's visit would be the first by a French president in more than two decades, and is another sign of Libya's warming ties with the West.

The Libyan leader invited Mr Berlusconi to the western coastal city of Mellitah for Thursday's opening of the gas pipeline.

The West Libyan Gas Project pipeline has been built at a cost of $5.6bn by the Italian oil groups Eni and Agip with Libya's state oil company NOC, AFP reports.


Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...ope/3722480.stm

"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." -Plato

#21    Talon

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Posted 11 October 2004 - 02:47 PM

Asylum storm buffets holiday island
By Mike Donkin
BBC correspondent in Lampedusa  


There is a corner of the picturesque harbour at Lampedusa which is a graveyard - for the fishing boats aboard which so many migrants from North Africa have made perilous and overcrowded journeys.

They lie at crazy angles, half-sunk in the oily water. Scattered across their decks you can see blankets, odd shoes and water bottles, discarded by the lucky passengers who made it ashore.

Nearly 10,000 would-be asylum seekers have washed up on Italy's southernmost outpost so far this year. That's twice the island's population.

Expelled

Until October most were shipped onward to neighbouring Sicily, where their claims for political refuge were checked.


But when numbers suddenly swelled the Italian government took more drastic measures. Migrants were despatched back handcuffed in military planes from Lampedusa direct to Libya. No questions asked.

Human rights groups and the United Nations refugee agency the UNHCR condemned this as indiscriminate and unfair.

And suddenly a holiday island that's just 20 square kilometres of rock, and which few had ever heard of, is at the centre of an international storm.


Sleek, Italian coastguard cutters cruise the sea off Lampedusa to intercept the migrants' boats as they head across from the coasts of Libya and Tunisia.


The crew, immaculate in their white uniforms, train powerful binoculars from the rail and scan radar screens in the wheelhouse. But they cannot stem the migration tide.

"Every day and every night our patrol boats are out here," harbour master Michel Niosi says. "And we have planes from Sicily searching too.

"It's our job not just to stop these people but to save them from drowning, and we do save many. But to prevent them coming?" He shakes his head. "We can't do that. There must be political agreement between Europe and these African states."

Something needs to be done fast, the islanders of Lampedusa will tell you. They would like to see the back of the "boat people" for good, they say, because news coverage of these uninvited visitors is ruining the one and only industry here - tourism.

Tourism hit

Signor Rosario is planting rows of parasols outside his beachfront hotel as he puts the concerns of everyone.


"The economy of this island depends on tourists - 100%. When they hear about this problem they don't want to come here.

"The government must do something. It must close the door to these people. Close the door and help them in another way."


But how to do that? Hundreds of thousands of people have already made their way from the war-torn and the poorest nations of Africa to attempt to cross the long Mediterranean coast that is now Europe's most fragile frontline. More will surely follow.

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is taking what steps he can. He has flown to meet the Libyan President Colonel Gaddafi in Tripoli.

And Italy, along with Britain and Germany, has also promoted a controversial plan to build holding camps in North Africa and process migrants before they set out to sea.


That scheme seriously worries several leading humanitarian agencies, who say it would expose already vulnerable people to new risks.

"Libya and other countries where these camps might be sited could not be guaranteed to respect international agreements on how to protect refugees," Juergen Humburg of the UNHCR told me on Lampedusa. "It would be dangerous for these people."

It is not possible to ask the migrants how they view all of this on the island itself. The old stone building that has turned into a detention centre has heavy bars on every window, high steel gates and spirals of razor wire. Not even aid workers get inside to meet the inmates.

Those who were earlier allowed to go to Sicily do have stories to tell however: Stories of the risks they took in travelling across Africa to go to Lampedusa, and of many hours spent on open boats in the scorching sun with no food or water.

They are keen as well to explain what drove them to this.

In the Southern Sicilian town of Agrigento 60 or more men from countries like Sudan, The Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Eritrea queue up with their trays to be served lunch of pasta and chicken by cheerful local volunteers.

All are quick to deny they are economic migrants.

Dangerous crossing

A tall Eritrean in his mid-20s has a typical tale. "I was a soldier with the army and I fought for six years," he says. "My captain told me to shoot men who had deserted from the war, and I was not willing. So I had to run away.


"I paid $1,000 to cross to Lampedusa from Tunisia but something was wrong with the boat so we had to go back. I had to pay another $1,000 to try again - that time from Libya.

"It was so dangerous on the sea, but I had no choice. They would not let me stay in Libya or Tunisia."

So are his troubles over now? No, he is grateful to the social workers at the centre and to the Italian government for their hospitality but still does not have permanent refugee papers.

And it will be some months before his appeal to stay is finally processed.

"Until now I haven't got political asylum and I don't know if I will," he says. "While we all wait here it is very hard. We can eat but we must sleep on the street. We have hardly any clothes and no money. We cannot get a job when we are in this situation.

"I wish that Europe, that all nations were aware of our problems."

At the centre that evening a dozen of the migrants sit at tables to learn some Italian - basic greetings and how to ask for a cup of tea.

There is laughter as they get the phrases wrong, light relief as their wait for the chance of a new life goes on.


Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...ope/3731356.stm



"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." -Plato




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