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Sunday, December 28, 1997 Published at 00:55 GMT


Italy urges crackdown on immigrant smugglers
image: [ Each refugee paid $3,000 to the organisers of the illegal traffic ]
Each refugee paid $3,000 to the organisers of the illegal traffic

Italy has urged Turkey to crack down on immigrant-smuggling rings after the coastguard rescued more than 800 illegal immigrants off the coast of southern Italy on Saturday.

"What is needed is a commitment in earnest from the Turkish authorities to cut off at the roots this traffic towards Europe that is being organised by unscrupulous gangs," Italian Minister Giorgio Napolitano told local television.

Mr Napolitano also called for an "international initiative to bring peace to the region of Kurdistan and to achieve recognition of these people's rights."

[ image: Women and children were taken off first]
Women and children were taken off first
Kurdish separatist groups have warned that thousands of Kurds are planning to travel to Italy to try to find work inside the European Union.

Now that Italy has joined a group of European nations that have eliminated border checks, the problem is not only an issue for Italy, but for Germany and France.

The Italian government is currently preparing new legislation to tighten control on illegal immigration.

Italian authorities granted temporary asylum to the migrants, who are mostly Kurds from Turkey, Iran and Iraq.

The refugees told the authorities they had each paid $3,000 to the organisers of the illegal traffic.

The captain and crew of the Turkish-registered ship fled in a lifeboat after the ship ran aground.

[ image: Ship ran aground off Calabria]
Ship ran aground off Calabria
Under the current laws, illegal immigrants are given 15 days to leave the country before facing arrest.

A week before Christmas, Italian and French police arrested 17 people accused of trafficking Kurds and refugees of other nationalities via Turkey and Greece into Italy.

Most of the clandestine arrivals are expelled. But many come anyway in the hope they can slip away and travel out of Italy in the time it takes Italian authorities to serve the expulsion papers.

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