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European Court to Examine African Refugee Case

Italy has deported most Africans who landed in the country aboard a ship operated by a German relief agency earlier this month. The European Court of Human Rights has now asked Italy for details of its decision.

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Italy will have to defend its decision before judges here

Twenty-seven Africans who arrived in Italy on July 12 on board the Cap Anamur ship operated by the German humanitarian organization of the same name were flown to Ghana early Friday. Five others had been deported Tuesday night.

The deportees were all part of a group of 37 Africans, six from Nigeria and 31 from Ghana, who were rescued at sea by the German relief agency. Only four Ghanaians and one Nigerian remain in Italy.

Thursday’s deportation came after Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu told parliament that none of the Africans were eligible for asylum.

He said that there was “no way round existing Italian norms governing illegal entry into the country,” but added that authorities were considering issuing some of the group with temporary residency permits on “humanitarian grounds.”

Cap Anamur Flüchtlingsschiff Sudanesiche Flüchtlinge Italien

The refugees aboard the ship prior to entering Italy

Pisanu also said that a “scrupulous investigation by police” had ascertained that none of the Africans were refugees from Sudan's war-torn Darfur region as some had originally claimed.

Italian's criticize ship's operators

Italy had refused to allow the German ship to enter a port in Sicily for over a week but finally relented when pressure mounted. The Africans who were being described by the ship’s crew as in a desperate state were finally allowed to disembark.

Pisanu blasted the German ship’s operators as “capable manipulators” of the media and said they were seeking “the biggest possible return” in publicity. He added the German organization had repeatedly lied to Italian authorities and tried to depict the country in a poor light abroad.

Last Friday, the ship’s captain and first officer, together with the leader of Cap Anamur, were released after five days in Italian custody. The men had been arrested on suspicion of aiding illegal immigration.

The Italian government has come under continuing fire from the opposition and human rights groups for its handling of the affair. The European Court of Human Rights has now asked Italy for details of its decision to deport the African immigrants to be presented in Strasbourg by Friday afternoon.

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