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Somalis convicted of migrant smuggling

Updated: 2015-04-29 07:40
By Agencies in Rome (China Daily)

EU leaders decide to triple funding for maritime surveillance operations after shipwreck tragedy

A court in Sicily convicted on Monday 20 Somalis, who had received political asylum in Italy, of participating in a vast criminal organization focused on migrant-smuggling.

Prosecutors in Catania said the defendants were part of an international trafficking ring that demanded "large sums of money" from migrants from Kenya and Somalia to enter Italy. They then helped them continue their journey to destinations in northern Europe, especially Sweden.

The convictions bring to 42 the number of people found guilty of involvement in the same smuggling ring, which was operating throughout Italy.

Italy, which has saved some 200,000 migrants at sea since the beginning of 2014, has sought to crack down on human traffickers to help deal with the huge influx of migrants reaching its shores.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Monday on a brief visit to an Italian navy ship involved in border control operations in the Mediterranean Sea.

The visit came just over a week after more than 750 people drowned in the Mediterranean's worst migrant shipwreck. It was part of a string of meetings that Mogherini had planned, citing "the need for a common effort to address the issue of migration, from tackling root causes to facing the emergencies".

"Unfortunately, recently, due to political instability in some parts of Africa, particularly North Africa, this sea has sadly become a sea of tears, a sea of misery," Ban said in a statement. "I think it seems to be the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War."

He said he recognizes the situation is a huge challenge for European governments.

Somalis convicted of migrant smuggling

EU lawmakers demanded on Tuesday the bloc share the burden of accepting asylum seekers as the pressure on southern European countries from migrants crossing the Mediterranean showed no sign of easing.

EU leaders held emergency talks on Thursday in Brussels and decided to triple funding for the bloc's maritime surveillance operation.

"The Dublin II rules are not adequate. They must be changed so as to spread the burden of asylum seekers across the EU," said Manfred Weber, head of the European People's Party, the largest in the European Parliament.

The last attempt to change the rules, in 2013, failed when 24 of the 28 EU member states voted against, with only Italy, Malta, Cyprus and Greece - those now bearing the brunt of the migrant influx - in favor.

The European Union's Dublin II protocol requires the member state that first takes in an asylum seeker must then process their request on its soil and take responsibility for returning home those denied admission.

Brussels also wants United Nations approval for an EU military operation against the smugglers who organize the hazardous crossings, often aboard overcrowded boats.

A staunch proponent for military action against smugglers, Renzi has branded them "the slave traders of the 21st century".

On Monday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the crisis required a "comprehensive response".

However, Ban has urged the EU to refrain from resorting to force.

Aid groups predict that if the migrant crisis continues unabated, there could be 30,000 deaths at sea this year and Italy will have to process 200,000 migrants.


(China Daily 04/29/2015 page11)

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