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Last Updated: Friday, 22 June 2007, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Migrants drown off Maltese coast
By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Migrants are supervised by an Italian naval officer. Archive picture
Many immigrants die or drown trying to cross to Europe by sea every year
Twenty-four Africans have drowned after a dinghy capsized south of Malta, according to the captain of an Italian fishing boat.

The captain of the trawler said the incident happened some 21 miles (33km) south of Malta.

A single survivor was rescued and other vessels are searching the area for more possible survivors.

Almost every day this month, Italian coastguards have been picking up dozens of exhausted African migrants.

They attempt to make the choppy crossing from North Africa in fragile and unseaworthy rubber dinghies.

Few of the passengers know how to swim and few of the traffickers operating the rubber dinghies provide life jackets.

'Sad ritual'

A boatload of 39 illegal immigrants has just been landed by coastguards on the small Italian holiday island of Lampedusa.

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Another 27 people from Somalia, including six women, landed during the night.

The Italian authorities have recently extended the reception centre for illegal immigrants on the island, but it is already overflowing with people.

As quickly as the police process the immigrants and fly them out or put them on a ferry to the mainland, more arrive.

Laura Boldrini, a spokesperson for the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Sicily, says this summer looks like establishing new records of people drowned or missing in the Mediterranean.

It has become a sad ritual of death and desperation, she said.


SEE ALSO
Malta wants EU help on migrants
12 Jun 07 |  Europe
Bodies found near Maltese coast
01 Jun 07 |  Europe

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