Immigrants Reach Corsica In Rare French Landing

Immigrants Reach Corsica In Rare French Landing

Published: January 22, 2010

PARIS (Reuters) – A group of 124 immigrants, including 38 children, were discovered on a Corsican beach after apparently being dumped on the French Mediterranean island by people traffickers, police said Friday.

Some of the new arrivals said they were Syrian Kurds, others that they were from other Middle Eastern countries or Tunisia.

While such landings happen regularly on Italian islands much further to the south, it is very unusual for refugees to reach French territory.

Officials said no boats had been found on the beach in the far south of Corsica where the immigrants landed, meaning that they must have been dropped off by traffickers.

French Immigration Minister Eric Besson told reporters his office was working with Italy to try and locate the smugglers.

“One boat has already attracted our attention,” Besson said, adding that it was in international waters and would shortly be checked by Italian coastguards.

Officials said the immigrants, who included 5 pregnant women and 9 babies, were in good health.

“This event shows once again how it is of the utmost importance for the European Union to strengthen surveillance along its borders. We cannot let the Mediterranean fall into the hands of human traffickers,” Besson said.

He added that he wanted EU immigration ministers to hold a crisis meeting to discuss the steady influx of illegal immigrants from across the Mediterranean.

“This summit should lead to the immediate introduction of emergency measures to strengthen controls along our Mediterranean border,” he said, adding that he wanted to see joint naval patrols guard Europe's southern coastline.

(Writing by Crispian Balmer; editing by Tim Pearce)