Govt launches probe into landing of migrants in Corsica

More than 100 “boat people”, possibly Kurds, who were abandoned on a Corsican beach were transferred to the French mainland on Saturday. Authorities have launched a probe to find out where they came from to see if they could claim asylum.


REUTERS - More than 100 “boat people”, possibly Kurds, who landed on a Corsican beach were transferred to the French mainland on Saturday as authorities launched a probe find out where they came from and see if they could claim asylum.

The case of the 124 immigrants, including 38 children, found on Friday after apparently being dumped by people traffickers on the Mediterranean island southeast of the French mainland, has shocked France, where such seaborne arrivals are rare.

“I am Kurdish, I want French passport, I am very tired,” newspaper Le Parisien quoted one of the men as saying.

Media quickly dubbed them “boat people” and expressed concern that Corsica could become a new destination for illegal migrants, while authorities tried to piece together their journey.

Human rights activists criticised the transfer to immigration centres on the mainland and said the people, possibly Syrian Kurds, were being pushed through a hasty procedure aimed at deporting them.

Authorities countered that each case would be examined individually.

“When they arrive in the centres, these people will have access to an interpreter, medical examinations, information on assistance for voluntary returns and legal aid to help them exercise their rights,” the Immigration Ministry said.

Illegal immigrants frequently arrive by boat in southern Italy, but such landings are unusual on French territory.

During the night, the immigrants staged a sit-in demonstration in the gym where they were housed and refused to use the makeshift beds. Some held up pieces of paper on which they had written “Freedom” and “This is our home”.

“France faces a new form of illegal immigration,” a front-page headline in Le Figaro newspaper said on Saturday.

Public prosecutor Thomas Pison in the Corsican port of Ajaccio said the people probably travelled from Syria to Tunisia by truck and boarded a cargo ship that dropped them in Corsica.

He said they paid 2,500-10,000 euros ($3,532-$14,130) to Tunisian traffickers for the passage.

Controversy erupted last year over a crackdown on illegal migrants who gathered in northern France to travel clandestinely across the channel to Britain.

Immigration Minister Eric Besson, who oversaw the operation, said at the time that the measures were necessary to fight against people traffickers and help local communities who had complained about the illegal migrants.

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