11 000 Balkan emigrants rush home for Easter

BARI, Apr 27, 2000 -- (AFP) Italian police had to call up emergency reinforcements over the Easter weekend after they were surprised by thousands of illegal and legal immigrants from Albania and the former Yugoslavia trying to return home, a police spokesman said Wednesday.

Some 11 000 immigrants, mostly Albanians, descended on the southern port of Bari in an attempt to return to the Balkans for the long Easter weekend, the spokesman said.

The immigrants, who had traveled from across Europe as well from within Italy, overwhelmed border police staff who needed to call up reinforcements from Sicily.

Five Albania-bound boats, together with one headed for Montenegro, left Bari every day over the holiday weekend, police said, adding that criminal gangs made use of the chaos to export stolen vehicles to the Balkans.

Several vehicles were impounded and two Yugoslav nationals arrested.

Original article