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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 August, 2004, 22:34 GMT 23:34 UK
Migrants die on journey to Italy
Survivors taken from boat
The migrants said they had been at sea for nine days
At least 26 African migrants have died trying to reach Italy in an overcrowded boat, Italian police have said.

More than 70 survivors were rescued by a freighter off the coast of Sicily.

The migrants said they had been at sea for nine days, but a quarter of those on board died on the way, and the survivors threw their bodies overboard.

The Italian authorities believe the boat began its journey in Libya. Those on board were mainly from Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast.

"My son didn't make it. I had to abandon him in the sea," one survivor told Ansa news agency.

Perilous journey

Small boats carrying illegal migrants regularly take people from North Africa to Italy.

Migrants pay people-smugglers hundreds of dollars in search of a better life.

I went through hell to reach Italy
Mamadou Saliou 'Billy' Diallo

Hundreds of people, mainly from Africa and Asia, have already tried to make the journey this year. An unknown number have died.

The issue of illegal immigration has caused outrage in Italy.

In July, nearly 500 migrants arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, south-west of Sicily.

In a high-profile incident earlier in July, 37 Africans were denied asylum in Italy after being taken to Sicily by a German charity.

Their plight touched the Italian public, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome, but the government is taking a tough line on illegal arrivals, tightening up a stricter immigration law which came into force two years ago.

The BBC's David Willey
"Another tragedy at sea involving people smugglers"

Migrants safe after sea rescue
17 Apr 04  |  Europe
Up to 60 migrants feared drowned
21 Dec 03  |  Europe
Migrant headache dogs Italy
01 Jul 03  |  Europe


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