(By Kate Carlisle)
(ANSA) - Rome, July 3 - The day after the Vatican announced
that Pope Francis he would be visiting the island of Lampedusa,
a main point of entry for immigrants seeking to reach Italy, a
rash of arrivals has the country scrambling to deal with the
latest wave of landings on the its shores.
Immigration from Northern Africa picks up in summer months
as sea conditions improve, but many die while attempting the
voyage, often in crammed and unsafe boats.
In a dramatic incident in June, seven migrants drowned as
they attempted to cling to a tuna cage dragged by a Tunisian
fishing boat south of Malta.
During the pope's official visit to the island on July
8, he plans to place a commemorative wreath in the waters
off the island in the memories of immigrants who perished trying
to reach land.
"The pope has been deeply touched by the recent sinking of
a boat carrying migrants from Africa, the last in a series of
similar tragedies," said a statement from the Vatican press
Early Wednesday morning a ship from the Italian Navy and
two from the Coast Guard rescued a raft with roughly 80 people
on board that was adrift 80 miles off the coast of Lampedusa.
First reports feared that some of the passengers had died
during the journey, but all were found in good condition.
Of the passengers, 10 are women, four of whom are pregnant,
the Coast Guard said.
During another landing around 3 am, 227 people were rescued
from a boat 70 miles off Lampedusa's coast.
In the southern region of Calabria, 28 Iraqi and Pakistani
migrants were found wandering near the Ciro' Marina in a
"disoriented state," police said.
Also in Calabria, a boat with 64 immigrants landed at Punta
All have been taken to temporary detention centers.
During Pope Francis' visit to Lampedusa on Monday, he is
scheduled to celebrate a mass at an immigration center that has
been a constant source of overcrowding.
Italy has three kinds of so-called temporary centers for
immigrants in the country without authorization - Centers
for Identification and Deportation (CIE), Centers for Asylum
Seekers (CARA) and Acceptance Centers (CDA).
Many have come under fire by human rights groups as being
unsafe and more like prisons than assistance centers.
In a violent incident overnight Tuesday, a 26-year-old
Kurdish asylum seeker was killed in a detention center for
immigrants in the southern city of Bari after a fight broke out
among detainees, authorities said.
Police said that the man was found dead when they arrived
on the scene after being called by workers at the center and
that he had knife wounds and numerous lesions on his body.
In a Vatican Radio interview, the pastor Stefano Nastasi of
Gerlando parish said that he wanted the pope to
to witness first-hand the immigration challenges in the area.
Francis "intends to pray for those who lost their lives at
sea, visit the survivors and refugees, and to encourage the
inhabitants of the island to take care of these brothers and
sisters in dire need," the Vatican said.