ANKARA–Jan 2 (Reuters) – A ship carrying some 300 people thought to be aiming to apply for asylum in Italy or Greece departed from near the Turkish city of Istanbul early on Friday–the pro-Kurdish DEM news agency said.
“There are 300 people (on the vessel)–it is said to be heading for Greece or Italy. It departed this morning,” a DEM correspondent told Reuters by telephone.
Turkish maritime officials could not confirm the report. “We don’t know (about the ship). If we knew–we would have caught them,” a Turkish coastguard official told Reuters.
Over 1,000 immigran’s–among them Kurds from Turkey–Iraq and Iran and people of other nationalities–have reached the Italian coast aboard two ships in the last week.
Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro said on Wednesday Italy’s arms were “wide open” to immigran’s seeking asylum.
“There is no doubt that persecution (of Kurds) in Iraq and certain regions of Turkey exists,” Interior Minister Giorgio Napolitano said.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said the people are economic migran’s and warned that giving them asylum would spur others to try to make the same journey.
Turkey–with a land border with Greece and a long Mediterranean coastline–has become a springboard for migran’s from Asia and the Middle East seeking entry to the wealthy countries of the European Union.
Turkey’s state-run Anatolian news agency said police had detained 20 illegal immigran’s–16 Pakistanis and four Bangladeshis–early on Friday who were preparing to be smuggled to Greece.
It said police would deport the 20–who were captured on a minibus in the western coastal province of Izmir.
Germany on Friday called on Italy to tighten its border controls after the arrival of the latest migran’s.
Interior Minister Manfred Kanther said Germany had to make sure its own frontiers were secure and had to demand the same level of border security from its European Union partners.
“This appeal is particularly directed at our Italian friends because it’s them and the Greeks whom the smugglers reach first,” Kanther told German Radio.
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