Dying for a glass of water

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Immigration officials are no longer surprised when they find a corpse in a shipping container or an airliner's baggage compartment from a smuggling operation gone wrong, but the growing scale of illegal immigration means the death tolls are rising. In 1996, some 200 Indians, Pakistanis and Sri Lankan migrants drowned off the coast of Italy when a ferry to which they had transferred rammed the fish transport vessel on which they had sailed for the previous six weeks. Last week, an alert pair of Spanish Civil Guard officers may have averted another tragedy like Dover when they stopped a dangerously overloaded van. Inside, squashed into six square meters, were 37 Moroccan men who had only enough strength to beg for air, water and food. "Some of them said they hadn't eaten for four days or drunk water for two days, and even though it was night the heat inside was stifling," said Civil Guard Lieut. Gerardo Otero. The driver had no license, was drunk and had previous arrests for robbery and drunken driving. Spain's Foreign Minister Josep Pique said that while he deplored the Dover tragedy, "Europeans should realize that such incidents happen every day."

óBy J.F.O. McAllister