[Stop-traffic] news/Albania-Italy: Italy is European frontier in immigration battle

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] news/Albania-Italy: Italy is European frontier in immigration battle
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Sun Sep 03 2000 - 21:15:46 EDT

Italy is European frontier in immigration battle
By Steve Pagani
Reuters, July 26, 2000

ROME (Reuters) - Italy, a buffer nation against the communist threat in the
20th century, now sees itself as a frontline state in the fight against
illegal immigration swamping Europe from the south.

Across the Adriatic Sea from Italy lies Albania, cited along with Russia
and Turkey in an international conference on immigration in Paris last week
as one of the main sources of human trafficking.

Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato is scheduled to visit the former
Stalinist state on Friday but the trip was called into question on Monday
after an Albanian motorised dinghy rammed a patrol boat, killing two young
Italian police officers.

``We have to deal with this incident for what it is, a huge European
problem,'' Finance Minister Ottaviano del Turco said. ``The Italian
coastline has become one of Europe's frontiers.''

Outraged rightist politicians blamed the government for inaction against
smugglers and said aid to Albania should end until it cracked down on crime
rings trafficking in people.

Centrist party leader Pier Ferdinando Casini urged Italy's leftist-led
government to allow security forces to shoot smugglers who refused to stop
when ordered to do so.

Interior Minister Enzo Bianco said on Tuesday that stiffer laws against
traffickers were to be introduced in parliament.


Italy was chastised two years ago by its northern European neighbours for
letting thousands of immigrants enter the European Union. Most countries
now concede that human trafficking is too widespread for just one nation to

Italy and its Christian Democrat rulers saw themselves 50 years ago as a
buffer against what they and Washington perceived as the threat of the
spread of communism across Europe.

French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement said at the Paris
conference last week that migration was clearly one of the major issues
facing Europe over the next 50 years.

Italy reacted with compassion when thousands of impoverished refugees
arrived on southern coasts in rusting hulks after Albania's communist
regime collapsed 10 years ago.

The climate is very different now. A nationwide survey published last week
showed three out of every four Italians blame immigrants for a rising crime

Albanian crime gangs, in collusion with Mafia clans in Italy's southeast
Puglia region, outwit police boats and coastguards assigned to ensure
surveillance of thousands of isolated bays and inaccessible coves.

Apart from Albanians, the vast majority of immigrants ferried across the
Adriatic are Kurds, Iraqis, Romanians and Turks, and sometimes Indians,
Pakistanis and Chinese.

Albanian gangs are believed also to have links with the Turkish mafia
brotherhood who ferry immigrants off Turkish islands directly to Italy or
via Albania.

Terrified immigrants can undergo inhumane treatment. At the end of a
45-minute dinghy trip from Albania to Italy, they are often pushed into the
water near the coast and made to swim to shore. Some cannot swim and die.


The Albanian connection suggests a network more complex than Italian
authorities originally believed, with a web stretching into the Middle East
and beyond.

Italy said this month it had arrested some 40 people in a covert operation
against a Chinese-led immigrant smuggling ring, which transported 5,000
Chinese this year through the Balkans and then into Italy via the
northeastern port of Trieste.

With a general election due in Italy within the next nine months,
immigration has become a politically sensitive issue.

The left and a United Nations report say that Italy needs immigrants to
fill the jobs Italians do not want and to deal with a declining population
over the next 20 years.

With surveys showing Italians putting crime at the top of their concerns
and blaming immigrants for the rise in crime, the right may have been
handed votes on a plate.

``We have become the sieve of Europe,'' Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter
of wartime fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, told Reuters Television.

``The centre left wants to regularise even those who entered illegally
without finding work for those who are already here. Inevitably, these
people become criminals,'' said Mussolini, a member of parliament for the
far-right National Alliance.


Tirana masterminding trafficking between Albania, Italy: ex-president
Agence France Presse, July 26, 2000

ROME (AFP) - Former Albanian President Sali Berisha on Wednesday accused
his country's leaders of pulling the strings in arms, drugs and human
trafficking between Albania and Italy.

Saying he had proof for his accusations, Berisha added in an interview with
the newspaper La Republica that former defense minister Sabit Brokaj,
currently security advisor to President Rexhep Meidani, was standing out
among those behind the traffickers.

"Our parliament Speaker Skender Gjanushi is another one; this is why nobody
stops these boats," Berisha said, referring to the vessels which illegally
ferry Albanians across the Strait of Otranto to Italy.

The interview was published two days before a scheduled visit to Albania by
Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato and two days after a military patrol
boat belonging to the Italian customs crashed with a dingy used to carry
illegal immigrants to southern Italy.

Three people including one coast guard died in the incident. One person is
still missing.

Berisha said the trafficking was organized by a "state mafia, with
tentacles in all institutions."

"Unfortunately, the problem are nor the traffickers but a corrupt and inept
political leadership which can only think about pocketing money," added

The opposition leader said the Albanian government was "according to
international assessments and certainly not only according to my own
beliefs, the most corrupt of our brief democratic history."

Italian opposition leaders have called on Amato to cancel his plans for the
Albania visit and said Italy's ongoing clampdown on illegal immigration
must be toughened. Italian assistance for Tirana should also be made
conditional on an Albanian crackdown on organised crime.

Melanie Orhant
Stop-Traffic Moderator

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