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Illegal migrants sent to mainland

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-01-25

A group of some 60 refugees in Corsica who say they are Syrian Kurds were flown to mainland France Saturday. The rest of the 124 refugees are soon to follow. The group was abandoned in Corsica by traffickers.

A group of some 60 refugees in Corsica, identifying themselves as Syrian Kurds, were flown to mainland France on Saturday. The rest of the 124 refugees are soon to follow. The group landed in Corsica after being unloaded by human traffickers on Friday.

The migrants were made to disembark near the southern town of Bonifacio by boat, officials said. They were then taken to a gymnasium to be treated by doctors and aid staff.  

Among them were 38 children and five pregnant women, one of whom was hospitalised in nearby Porto-Vecchio. The town's mayor, Jean-Charles Orsucci, told AFP that most of them were "in good health, not starving".

They were "put ashore from a boat by traffickers, apparently on Thursday evening", but were not discovered on the isolated beach until Friday morning, a Corsican official said.

France's immigration minister, Eric Besson, said in a statement that some of the migrants identified themselves as Kurds from Syria and others were from North Africa.

He told reporters that a suspicious boat had since been spotted in international waters and was due to be stopped by Italian authorities.

It was the first known large-scale landing of migrants on the shores of the Mediterranean island. A boat carrying some 900 Kurds capsized off southern France in 2001 in a case involving Syrian and Lebanese traffickers.

Migrants have often arrived in a similar way on Spanish and Italian soil after dangerous sea crossings.

A spokesman for the local maritime authorities, Bernard Celier, said they were patrolling to see if there were other trafficking vessels nearby, and police and helicopters were scanning the shore for other migrants.


Date created : 2010-01-23