Italy, UNHCR in row over refugees seeking asylum

Voice of America reports the United Nations refugee agency has accused Italy of forcibly deporting asylum seekers to Libya.

The UNHCR says more than 80 people, most from Eritrea, were intercepted by the Italian Navy on July 1. It says the asylum seekers were picked up near the Italian island of Lempedusa, transferred to a Libyan ship and later transported to Libya.

The U.N. refugee agency says the group of asylum seekers was placed in detention centers upon their arrival in Libya. It says 76 of the 82 people intercepted at sea by the Italian navy originate from Eritrea, including nine women and at least six children.

Meanwhile, AFP reports that

Italy has demanded an apology from the UN refugee agency in an angry response Tuesday to a complaint that a group of African would-be immigrants were mistreated.

European Affairs Minister Andrea Ronchi said the UNHCR should be ashamed of the “repugnant and false” accusations against Italy’s armed forces, which he said had been made without even checking the facts with Rome.

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