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18.07.2004 General News

Ghanaians "From Sudan" To be Deported from Italy

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.... Italy rejects asylum bids of 37 immigrants ROME -- Italian authorities have rejected asylum bids by 37 Africans who landed in Italy after a three-week voyage aboard an aid agency ship, but many of the men could be allowed to stay for humanitarian reasons, state television reported yesterday.

Earlier, 14 asylum-seekers were flown from Sicily to Rome, where they were taken to a detention center to await expulsion.

RAI state TV said that while 14 had been ordered to leave Italy, the rest, still in Sicily, might win permission to stay on humanitarian grounds -- even though they didn't qualify for political asylum.

The Interior Ministry, which oversees the government's crackdown on illegal immigration, said it could not immediately confirm reports about the asylum commission's decisions.

Refugee aid groups said they would try to keep the 14 immigrants in Italy.

"We will try all kinds of legal remedies," said Christopher Hein, head of the Italian Refugee Council.

A German aid group, Cap Anamur, said it had rescued the 37 Africans from a small craft in the Mediterranean on June 20. After a three-week standoff with the Italian government, the boat docked in Sicily, where it was immediately seized by Italian authorities.

An opposition senator, Antonello Falomi, told the Italian news agency ANSA that he had been informed that many of the Africans being held near Rome are Sudanese, as originally claimed by some aid agencies. The Interior Ministry said it had no information about that.

In the early weeks of the drama, the Africans were said to have fled Sudan's war. But Italian authorities had said there were no Sudanese among them -- only immigrants from Nigeria, Niger, and Ghana.

Meanwhile, three crew members from the ship of Cap Anamur, a German relief agency, had their first full day of freedom after their release from a Sicilian jail.

They are being investigated for allegedly aiding illegal immigration and attempted resistance, said Antonella Bona, one of their lawyers. The three were jailed on Monday after the ship docked.

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