News / Africa

Italy Feels Alone in African Immigrant Crisis

Migrants arrive on the tiny island of Lampedusa, Italy, May 8, 2011
Migrants arrive on the tiny island of Lampedusa, Italy, May 8, 2011

There is no end in sight to the constant flow of desperate people making the crossing from North Africa to Italy.  The latest fishing vessel to be rescued by Italian officials was carrying more than 900 immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa. 

The Italian Finance Police and Coast Guard boats rescued more than 900 Africans on a fishing vessel during the night off the southern coast of Sicily.  The passengers, many of whom were women and children from Libya and sub-Saharan Africa, had left the Libyan coastline three days earlier.

The commander of the Port Authority in Pozzallo, Sicily is Ennio Garro. He says it is not immediately clear how many people were on board the vessel.  The majority, he said, were inside the vessel.  Five of them were in complicated health conditions, with one woman about to give birth.

He said the coast guard immediately took those who required medical attention to the hospital for treatment.  All the others were taken to a temporary holding center for identification procedures and were being moved to other reception centers.

The immigrants said the Maltese coast guard had come to seen them at sea and had limited themselves to escorting the vessel to the limit of Malta's territorial waters.  The failure of the Maltese to rescue immigrants at sea is irritating Italian authorities, who feel they are being left alone to deal with the immigrant emergency.

Just two days ago, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni accused Malta of having "washed its hands" one more time when it failed to rescue more than 200 immigrants, leaving it to the Italian Coast Guard.

Meanwhile, more than 1,400 immigrants arrived on an Italian ferry in Taranto, on the mainland.  They are being taken to a reception center, after having been transferred from the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.

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