[Stop-traffic] News/Italy: Italy urged to shoot human traffickers

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/Italy: Italy urged to shoot human traffickers
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Tue Aug 22 2000 - 09:12:29 EDT

What is wrong with people?

Melanie Orhant

Italy urged to shoot human traffickers
By John Phillips
The Times (London), August 9, 2000

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.
Melanie Orhant
Stop-Traffic Moderator

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