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Albania: Italy Returns 180 Refugees

Rome, 5 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - An Italian Coast Guard official says 180 Albanian refugees were sent back to their Balkan nation today, one day after a vessel carrying them and some 1,000 others arrived at a southern Italian port.

The official also said that five crew members aboard the ship that reached the Italian port of Bari have been detained on charges of profiteering from refugee trafficking.

Most of the refugees were sent to special centers. But Italian Interior Minister Giorgio Napolitano says many of them may also be sent back unless an investigation determines they have reason to fear for their lives in Albania.

Napolitano says troops from an Italian-led force now in Albania are not yet deployed in the northern coast, where the ship originated. The 6,000-strong force was sent to protect transport routes and aid deliveries after the collapse of high risk investment schemes led to widespread unrest and violence.

A new incident came to light today when the family of former Albanian Foreign Minister Alfred Serreqi said his car was fired on yesterday in the town of Lac, 50 kilometers north of Tirana. He was not injured.