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Italy - illegal immigrants

Italy picks up 50 illegals off coast of Sicily

Article published on the 2009-08-25 Latest update 2009-08-25 13:40 TU

Coastline of Lampedusa, Italy(Photo: Wikipedia)

Coastline of Lampedusa, Italy
(Photo: Wikipedia)

Italian authorities have picked up 57 illegal immigrants off the coast of Lampedusa island, a part of Sicily. The migrants, of unknown origin, will be taken to Porto Empedocle processing centre in Sicily. The group includes four women. Their boat was towed into Italian waters by a Maltese ship.

This latest rescue comes after five Eritreans were picked up last Thursday in Lampedusa. They claimed they were the only survivors among 78 people in the same boat.

The Eritreans could be the first to fall under a tough new Italian law that would fine would-be migrants between 5,000 and 10,000 euros, according to Italy's ANSA news agency.

This news sparked angry reaction from the Catholic church and civil society groups in Italy, especially when the five survivors said that many ships passed them by. Their voyage lasted 23 days.

This is a "serious offense to humanity and the Christian way of life," said Monsignor Bruno Schettino, head of an immigration commission.

Other newspapers described their maltreatment at sea and on land in comparison to the 1939 Nazi deportations from Italy.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that more than 67,000 people crossed into the Mediterranean in 2008 to try and reach Europe's shores.

The European Union announced Monday that it would present proposal in September on reforming its immigration policy.