Italy tries fishermen for rescuing migrant

PALERMO, Italy, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Seven Tunisian fishermen are on trial in Italy for rescuing 44 illegal immigrants from a sinking boat at sea.

The fishermen, who were arrested Aug. 8 and not granted bail until Sept. 10, could face 15 years in prison if convicted of aiding and abetting illegal immigration, The Independent reported Thursday.


Capt. Abdelkarim Bayoudh and his crew said they heard the immigrants screaming for help while they were anchored. They said the other vessel, a rubber boat that was in danger of sinking, contained 44 people, including two children and two pregnant women.

The boat took the immigrants on board and diverted to the nearest port, Lampedusa, the southernmost island in Italy.

The Independent said experts said charges were brought against the fishermen to dissuade others from following their example.

Laura Boldrini, of the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, said fishermen are needed to help those who require rescue at sea.

"We only know the tip of the iceberg of what happens in the Mediterranean," she said. "We must rely on fishermen to rescue people in trouble -- or at the very least alert the maritime authorities."


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