BHHRG

About BHHRG

The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions

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The post-Kosovo Refugee Crisis: Italy - the Problem
HITS: 2445 | 17-01-2003, 05:28 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Albania, Global Events, War and peace

The majority of illegal immigrants enter Western Europe through the south-eastern Puglia region of Italy. The area is poor but it has two important ports, Bari and Brindisi, which connect Italy with the Balkans, Greece and Albania with regular ferry services used by many freight vehicles. A flat, scrubby coastline dotted with abandoned buildings makes clandestine landings from the small craft _ mainly fast rubber boats with outboard motors _ used by the Italian and Albanian smugglers (known as Scafisti) and the dispersal of their cargo of asylum seekers relatively easy.

It is general knowledge that most of the smuggling operates from southern Albania, from the port of Vlora (Italian Valona) from where high - powered speed boats that carry around 40 passengers usually evade the Italian coastguard patrols to reach the coast. Although the trade in refugees has been publicized widely since the Kosovo crisis _ many Kosovan refugees paid middlemen to arrange their departure from camps in Albania _ it has been going on for some time. In January 1998 BHHRG representatives saw groups of mainly young men making their way in broad daylight towards boats waiting along beach of the bay in Vlora. Police stood nearby doing nothing even though the new Albanian government (elected in summer 1997) had assured European governments of its commitment to stamp out the trade.

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