[Stop-traffic] WWW: Italy urged to shoot human traffickers (fwd)

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] WWW: Italy urged to shoot human traffickers (fwd)
From: melissa (honeypot@panix.com)
Date: Mon Aug 09 2004 - 10:48:23 EDT




Italy urged to shoot human traffickers ======================================


The Italian Government came under increased pressure to allow police to shoot to kill human traffickers yesterday after hundreds of illegal immigrants landed in the south of the country.

Coastguards at Roccella Ionica ferried ashore 319 Kurds after two motorboats from Turkey issued an SOS call. Their arrival underlined the helplessness of the authorities to prevent thousands of Albanians, Iraqis, Turkish Kurds and Chinese from landing on the long coastline and taking advantage of the freedom of movement between European Union countries to reach France and Germany.

The battle against illegal immigrants is especially fierce in Apulia, the heel of Italy, where smugglers use high-speed launches and dinghies to make the 90-minute crossing from the Albanian port of Valona.

Two Asian women were drowned yesterday at Giovinazzo near the Apulian port of Bari when crewmen ferrying 60 immigrants forced them to jump into rough sea and swim to the coast.

Efforts to capture the traffickers, who also deal in drugs and arms, are spearheaded by the Finance Guards, a paramilitary force who say their effectiveness is limited by rules of engagement which forbid them to open fire on smugglers for fear that they might kill immigrants. A wave of indignation swept the country last month when two Finance Guards from the port of Otranto were killed after smugglers rammed their dinghy.

After the incident, opposition politicians such as Pierferdinando Casini of the Christian Democrat Centre Party and Domenico Gramazio of the post-fascist National Alliance urged the Government to allow police to open fire first. "We are at war with the smugglers," Signor Casini, said. "We ought to be able to shoot at them."

Guiseppe Lumia, the chairman of the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission and Enzo Bianco, the Interior Minister, gave qualified support for changing the rules of engagement but Giuliano Amato, the Prime Minister, officially squashed the idea.

"The smugglers are animals," said a young Finance Guard who showed reporters the mangled prow of the dinghy used by his dead colleagues. "Often it would be enough for us to fire warning shots to stop them. The Government should do more to help us."

His words were echoed by the Otranto coastguard commander, Enrico Macri, who said that more than 100 immigrants leaving Albania may have drowned this year. "The Kurds are a mountain people. Many of them don't know how to swim. People should bear in mind how many immigrants drown when they say it would be dangerous to shoot at the smugglers. We could easily have stopped them militarily. This is a political problem."

According to the Interior Ministry, the number of illegal immigrants arriving in Italy fell to 16,000 in the first seven months of this year compared with 35,000 over the same period in 1999.

But Toti Bellone, a journalist who writes about illegal immigration for the Bari-based Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno newspaper, says the figures should be treated with caution.The influx was unusually heavy last year because of refugees fleeing from the Kosovo conflict and most of them have now returned there. -- _______________________________________________ Stop-traffic mailing list Stop-traffic@friends-partners.org http://fpmail.friends-partners.org/mailman/listinfo.cgi/stop-traffic

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