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Last Updated: Friday, 9 July, 2004, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Italy urged to let migrants land
Illegal immigrants at sea
Many North Africans try to reach Europe across the Mediterranean
The UN has pressed Italy to allow a ship carrying 37 African migrants to dock at the southern island of Sicily and put an end to a week-long dispute.

The boat has been floating off the coast as Italy argues with the German aid group who own the ship.

Cap Anamur rescued the people, mostly Sudanese nationals, off the coast of Malta two weeks ago.

Italy refuses to let them in, saying the migrants first passed through Malta, and must apply for asylum there.

The UN refugee agency said it was concerned for those on board and urged Italy to let them in on humanitarian grounds.

"It would be best if they were taken off that boat," Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

"Failure to disembark the group will simply add to the hardship they have already suffered."

Rescued

The German aid ship came across the rubber dinghy packed with migrants in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Malta two weeks ago.

It rescued the 37 men aboard - 36 Sudanese and one man from Sierra Leone - and sailed towards Italy.

The interior ministry said allowing the asylum-seekers to land on Italian soil would set a dangerous precedent.

The country's long and porous coastline mean it is often a target for immigrants seeking an entry-point into Europe.

But Mr Redmond of the UNHCR said that the migrants should be allowed to disembark on humanitarian grounds.

"Right now they are off the coast of Sicily so that is probably the place we would like them to be taken ashore."




SEE ALSO:
Migrant headache dogs Italy
01 Jul 03  |  Europe
Rural Spain welcomes immigrants
19 Jun 03  |  Europe


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