Tag Archives: Bari

20th Anniversary of the Arrival at Bari, Italy of 15,000 Albanian Boat People

Twenty years ago, on 8 August 1991, several ships carrying approximately 15,000 Albanian migrants succeeded in entering the port of Bari, Italy.  The Italian government’s response was harsh.  Most of the Albanians were detained in a sports stadium without adequate food, water, or access to bathrooms.  Italian authorities dropped supplies to the detained migrants by helicopter.  Within several weeks most of the migrants were deported to Albania.  Their harsh treatment was criticised by human rights organisations and the Pope, but was justified by the Italian government as necessary to deter further irregular migration from Albania.

Excerpts from the 27 January 1992 PACE Report on the Exodus of Albanian Nationals:



13.       Albania’s forty years of isolation from the rest of the world, combined with its disastrous economic, social and political situation, have had a traumatic effect on its citizens. They feel overwhelmed by hopelessness in the face of Albania’s domestic situation, and although their knowledge of other countries is based solely on what they have heard, or seen on Italian television, they long for the opportunity to start a new life abroad.

14.       This general mood became evident after mid-1990 when increasing numbers of asylum-seekers started to leave the country. Distressing images reminded the public in the rest of Europe of a part of the continent which they had forgotten existed.

15.       In July 1990, Western embassies in Tirana were besieged by large numbers of Albanian nationals. Some 5 000 people sought to leave the country. Thanks to the mediation of international organisations, and after intensive negotiations, a large number of them managed to obtain visas and were granted political asylum in several European countries, particularly Germany, Italy and France. Some have apparently since returned to Albania.

16.       At the end of 1990, some 3 000 Albanian nationals had arrived in Greece by crossing the border between the two countries without meeting any resistance from Albanian border guards. By mid-March 1991, 20 000 Albanians, many of them of Greek ethnic origin, were estimated to have entered Greece. Some of these Albanian nationals have applied to the Greek authorities for political asylum. However, interviews of asylum-seekers have shown clearly that the exodus was not politically motivated but directly linked to the difficult situation prevailing in Albania. The Greek authorities granted work permits to those who found a job and temporary residence permits to the others. Repatriation programmes for all those wishing to return voluntarily were carried out in close co-operation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

17.       On 5 March 1991, a large number of Albanians gathered before the German, French, Greek and Italian Embassies in Tirana, where it was rumoured that visas were going to be distributed. The following day (according to various sources), several boats left the Albanian port of Durres with 20 000 Albanians on board.

18.       On 7 March 1991, Albanian ships began arriving at ports in southern Italy (Brindisi, Bari, Otranto and Monopoli). In spite of the Italian authorities’ public refusal to allow the Albanians to land, many managed to do so.

19.       On the following day, 8 March 1991, hygiene on the boats had deteriorated to such an extent that landing was unavoidable. Crowds of Albanians settled on the quays of Italian ports to await aid which took several days to arrive, as the Italian authorities were overwhelmed by their sheer number.

20.       The Italian authorities claim that 20 000 Albanians arrived in Italy between 7 and 10 March 1991. Negotiations between the authorities in Tirana and Rome subsequently brought the exodus to an end, and Italy has undertaken to discuss with Albania how to eliminate its root causes.

21.       Also in March 1991, an undetermined number of Albanians of Serbian and Montenegrin origin attempted to enter Yugoslavia illegally.

22.       In June 1991, the Albanian authorities requested the United Nations Development Programme to organise an interagency mission in order to undertake an assessment of Albania’s urgent humanitarian needs. In the field of migration, the mission concluded that the great majority of Albanians who had left the country were seeking improved economic conditions and recommended to the Albanian government that it provide incentives so as to encourage Albanians to remain in their country.

23.       During the first days of August 1991 thousands of Albanians reached the western port of Durres and the southern port of Vlora, in the hope of going on board ships that would take them to Italy.

24.       The Albanian authorities tried in vain to prevent its citizens from leaving the country by putting the ports under military control and halting passenger trains.

25.       On 8 August 1991 an estimated 10 000 Albanian nationals aboard several ships forced their way into the port of Bari in the south-east of Italy and approximately 1 000 into the port of Otranto. Moreover, 675 Albanians aboard two other ships who tried unsuccessfully to land at ports in Sicily, were diverged to Malta and later returned to Albania.

26.       After several hours of waiting in the port of Bari, the Italian authorities allowed the Albanians to disembark for humanitarian reasons and led them to La Vittoria Sports Stadium. As the Italian authorities started forced repatriation using military transport planes and ferries, clashes broke out between policemen and Albanians. The Albanians barricaded themselves in the stadium refusing to return to their country; some 300 succeeded in escaping.

27.       The Italian authorities offered the Albanians 50 000 lire (40 US dollars) each and new clothes if they would return home. As this offer did not attract the Albanians, forced repatriation continued.

28.       At the same time the Italian Government increased its financial aid to Albania. Right after the repatriation operations food and emergency aid was sent to Albania. On 12 August 1991, the European Community announced an extra 2,3 million US dollars of emergency aid to be used to buy food and medicines.

29.       The large majority of Albanians arriving in Italy were claiming to be looking for work and escaping the poor economic situation in their country. The failure to repatriate the 7 000 Albanians who arrived in March 1991 as well as rumours of an immigration agreement between Albania and Italy seemed to encourage this last flow.

30.       All of Europe witnessed the dramatic scenes, captured on television news, showing the Albanians being expelled by Italian officials. Although repatriation was legally justified, the way in which the operation was conducted was problematic. The vast majority of the Albanians, according to their accounts of the exodus, fled their country because they felt “buried alive” there. They explained that when the news spread like wildfire that it was possible to leave Albania, lorries were seized in the ensuing rush, ships commandeered, and their crews forced to set sail. It was a form of mass psychosis. It is difficult to determine whether this psychosis was triggered deliberately; rumours suggest that this was the case, but there is no conclusive evidence to support this.

31.       The Albanians’ deportation from Italy was beset with problems, and on a number of occasions the police were deployed. The Albanians were particularly distressed to find that despite promises from the Italian authorities to allow some of them to travel to new homes in Italy, they were still sent straight back to Albania.

32.       It should be noted, however, that the Italian authorities provided the Albanians with food, clothing and some money.

33.       Although there was remarkable sympathy for the Albanians in Italy, the official Italian position was that these persons were seeking economic betterment in Italy and consequently could not be considered as political refugees.

34.       From 15 to 17 August the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR sent a joint mission to Albania. It discussed with the Albanian authorities issues related to migration, such as:

–       the continuation of voluntary return projects from neighbouring countries;

–       the planned and orderly emigration of a small number of Albanians to work in industrialised countries;

–       the implementation of an information project aimed at informing Albanians of the economic and social situation in neighbouring countries;

–       the need to promote, in the mid-term, the reinsertion of returning Albanians, through appropriate vocational training before their return.

35.       It must also be recalled that, at the request of the Italian authorities, IOM and UNHCR, in conjunction with the Italian Red Cross, established a programme of voluntary return. As at the end of August 1991, 1 130 Albanians had been assisted by IOM in their voluntary return. The programme was financed by the Italian Government.

36.       By the end of December 1991 more than 200 000 Albanians were estimated to have left their country since the exodus began in July 1990. However, the UNHCR considers this figure could be substantially higher.


Click here for 27 January 1992 PACE Report on the Exodus of Albanian Nationals:

Click here and here for articles about events in Bari marking the anniversary. (IT)


Filed under Council of Europe, Italy, News

Interview with Frontex Spokesperson Michal Parzyszek

Frontex spokesperson Michal Parzyszek was interviewed by the Sofia News Agency on 27 May.  Here are some excerpts:

Current Frontex sea operations: “Operation Hera, which is in the territorial waters of Senegal and Mauritania; Operation Indalo in Spanish waters; Operation Hermes in Italian waters; Operation Aeneas in Italian waters; Operation Poseidon in Greek waters.”

Frontex operations in Italy: “The help on part of Frontex in the southern waters, including in Italy, is more on providing risk analysis – to give a better idea of what is going on, and what can happen.  …  So in terms of [Frontez] assets, there are just two airplanes and two boats which are deployed there under Frontex in the waters south of Sardinia and south of Lampedusa.  …  There are 10-15 Frontex experts that are identifying the migrants once they reach the reception facilities there. They are deployed to Caltanissetta, Catania, Trapani, Crotone, and Bari….”

Arrivals to Lampedusa:  “It varies every day. You have days when you have no arrivals, and then suddenly you have 1 000 people arriving to Lampedusa. Since the start of the operation on February 20, 2011, there have been almost 31 000 people that arrived to Lampedusa.”

Irregular migrants prefer entering Greece rather than Bulgaria: “… In the case of Greece, a readmission agreement with Turkey doesn’t truly work; in the case of Bulgaria, the cooperation with Turkey is much better so the Turkish authorities – if they receive proper documentation and justification – they accept people back.  This is a very important element – potential migrants know that if they cross the border between Turkey and Bulgaria, there is high probability that they will be sent back to Turkey so they don’t choose that way….”

(HT to Euro-Police.)

Click here for full interview.

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Filed under Aegean Sea, Black Sea, Bulgaria, Eastern Atlantic, European Union, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Libya, Mauritania, Mediterranean, News, Senegal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey

Frontex Announces Extension and Expansion of Joint Operation Hermes in Central Mediterranean

On 23 March Frontex announced a 5 month extension of its Joint Operation Hermes.  Frontex also announced a westward expansion of the operational area to include Sardinia, roughly 300 km northwest of Lampedusa.  According to Frontex Director Laitinen, “100 percent [of] the request the Italian authorities [have] made to Frontex” has been satisfied.

Frontex statement in full:

“Warsaw, 23 March 2011 — Due to the notable increase in migratory pressure on Italy and the island of Lampedusa in particular, Frontex has widened the operational area of Joint Operation Hermes and extended its duration for five more months, with the aim of strengthening Europe’s border control response capability in the Central Mediterranean.

‘In close cooperation with the Italian authorities, we have decided to run Joint Operation Hermes until the end of August 2011, and to extend the operational area to include Sardinia, where Frontex has already deployed aerial assets to strengthen the patrolling capacity of the Italian authorities,’ said Frontex Executive Director Ilkka Laitinen.

‘Frontex is closely monitoring the developments in North Africa and stands ready to assist the Member States operationally if requested. We are also continuously developing additional operational responses for potential rapid deployment throughout the Mediterranean if needed,’ he added.

As of 23 March 2011, Lampedusa remained the main destination for migrants from Tunisia. During the previous week alone, 3,230 undocumented persons arrived on the island, bringing the total number of arrivals detected in the whole operational area since Hermes began on 20 February to 9,098. The majority of migrants are young men but 52 women and more than 240 minors were also detected during Italian-led Hermes. At the time of writing the great majority of migrants who recently arrived in Lampedusa claimed to be of Tunisian nationality.

In addition to one aircraft and two vessels already financed and coordinated by Frontex, one Dutch and one Portuguese plane have now arrived in Pantelleria and Sardinia respectively to assist the Italian authorities in strengthening their border control activities.

‘With this equipment and 20 experts currently working in the centres of Bari, Caltanisetta and Crotone, we have satisfied 100 percent the request the Italian authorities made to Frontex,’ Laitinen concluded.

The cost of the first 40 days of the operation amounts to EUR 2.6 mln.”

Click here for statement.


Filed under European Union, Frontex, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News, Tunisia