Italy: Two dead migrants found on people-smuggling boat

Palermo, 3 April (AKI) - Two would-be migrants were found dead aboard one of two packed people-smuggling boats intercepted by the Italian navy in on Friday. The navy intercepted the boats south of the Italian coast and transferred their 136 passengers to the southern Sicilian port of Porto Empedocle.

One of the vessels had 76 immigrants aboard, including 15 women, one of whom was pregnant.

The second vessel carried 60 illegal immigrants, among them five women.

During the warmer months, hundreds arrive on Italy's southern coast each week in search of a better life in Europe aboard people smugglers' boats. These mostly set sail from North Africa, notably Tunisia, Libya and Morocco.

Over 36,000 boat people arrived on the southern Italian coast last year - a 75 per cent increase over the number of arrivals in 2007 - according to the Italian government and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).

Italy has the European Union's longest coastline - 4,500 kilometres - making it difficult to police and thus a preferred destination for illegal migrants.

The conservative Italian government is seeking to clinch a series of repatriation agreements with various North African countries from which many of the illegal immigrants come.


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