Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Royal decree on low-cut tops

Read more

DEBATE

Ukraine, The Escalation: No Stopping Putin? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Ukraine, The Escalation: No Stopping Putin?

Read more

FOCUS

Bangladesh: Textile workers' lives still at risk?

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

José Bové, Candidate for the EU Commission presidency, Group of the Greens

Read more

WEB NEWS

NYPD's online campaign backfires

Read more

ENCORE!

Celebrating the Bard's birthday in Britain

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yuki Tatsumi, Senior Associate of the East Asia Program, Stimson Center

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

USA: Executions halted over drugs secrecy

Read more

  • Russia orders military drills as Ukraine moves on separatists

    Read more

  • Israel halts Middle East peace talks over Hamas deal

    Read more

  • A radio station preaching peace and love in CAR

    Read more

  • Platini: PSG in danger over Financial Fair Play rules

    Read more

  • Ségolène Royal denies banning cleavage at French ministry

    Read more

  • Afghan guard kills US doctors in Kabul hospital attack

    Read more

  • Palestinian unity deal stirs anger in Israel

    Read more

  • Video: Mayor in east Ukraine ready ‘to turn Slaviansk into battlefield’

    Read more

  • US would defend Japan in islands dispute, Obama says

    Read more

  • New far-right mayor moves to quash Paris region mosque

    Read more

  • US soldiers arrive in Poland as Ukraine crisis continues

    Read more

  • Fatah, Hamas agree to form Palestinian unity government

    Read more

  • Millions of Syrians desperately need aid, says UN

    Read more

  • Muslims in CAR pray for an escape route

    Read more

  • Madrid beat Bayern 1-0 in first leg of Champions League semis

    Read more

  • Britain's ex-PM Blair warns against spread of radical Islam

    Read more

  • Turkish PM offers condolences to descendants of Armenians killed in 1915

    Read more

  • Gay marriage, one year on: ‘French civilisation did not crumble’

    Read more

  • Colombian president reinstates firebrand Bogota mayor

    Read more

  • NYPD public relations campaign on Twitter goes awry

    Read more

  • In pictures: Violent protests erupt in Rio

    Read more

Europe

Tunisian 'exodus' exposes Europe's migrant quandary

©

Video by FRANCE 2 , Olivia SALAZAR WINSPEAR

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2011-02-15

The mass landing of Tunisian illegal migrants on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa has highlighted the European Union’s continuing struggle to find a coordinated approach to the hot-button issue of immigration.

The Italian government declared a humanitarian emergency and appealed for EU help on Sunday, after the arrival of some 4,000 Tunisian migrants on the island of Lampedusa raised fears of an influx of asylum seekers and exposed Europe’s lack of coordination on the issue.

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, a member of the anti-immigration Northern League party, called the migration a "biblical exodus" and blasted the European Union for leaving Italy to confront the situation alone.

Jacob lippincott reports for France 24 from Tunis, Tunisia

The Italian authorities have reopened an immigrant processing centre on the small Mediterranean island to deal with the massive wave of arrivals. But with a capacity of only 800 people, the centre soon proved insufficient. Half the migrants have already been transferred to other reception centres on the mainland to avoid overcrowding and water shortage.

"I have asked for urgent intervention by the European Union because the Maghreb is exploding," Maroni said, referring to the north African region that has been swept by a wave of popular unrest in recent weeks.

Writing in her blog on Monday, Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, said she was “very surprised by the recent press statement by some Italian authorities on the alleged bureaucratic and slow response by the European Commission.”

Malstrom wrote: “I had personal contacts with the Italian authorities already on Saturday and I asked if they needed our help to cope with these exceptional circumstances. Their reply was clear: no thanks, we do not need the European Commission’s assistance at this stage."

In a statement published on its website, FRONTEX, the European agency tasked with assisting member states in improving border security, also said that as of Monday, it had not received a formal request for assistance from the Italian government.

France-bound

According to Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesperson for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), most of the migrants were men in their 20s and 30s, but there were also a few minors and women. When asked why they had left Tunisia, some mentioned concerns over the security situation while others pointed at the country’s economic collapse.

Roughly two thirds of the Tunisians in Lampedusa claim they want to go on to France, Giacomo said, adding that this massive exodus was unprecedented and could only be tackled at the European level.

The mass landings in Lampedusa prompted rapid reactions from European leaders, who are eager to demonstrate a hard stance against irregular immigration and who have struggled to carve out a unified EU policy on the issue.

“There can be no tolerance for illegal immigration,” French Industry Minister Eric Besson told Canal+ television on Monday. Besson, a former immigration minister, said some of the Tunisians in Italy might have legitimate asylum claims, but that each case would be treated separately.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed a similar sentiment on Monday, saying that "not everyone who does not want to be in Tunisia can come to Europe".

According to the IOM spokesman in Lampedusa, there have been no new arrivals of Tunisians since Sunday evening. “No one is sure why there have been no more arrivals, maybe rough waters or increased surveillance by the Tunisian coastguard,” Di Giacomo told FRANCE 24.

The power vacuum following the fall of president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has been blamed for the lapse in coastline security that allowed the fleeing Tunisians to reach the shores of Lampedusa.

The flow of illegal migrants to Italy has dropped substantially since 2008, when Rome signed a bilateral agreement with Libyan authorities under which the authoritarian African state agreed to return would-be migrants without screening them first for asylum. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has condemned that policy as a violation of the right to seek asylum and flee oppression, humanitarian crises and war.

On Monday, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the EU’s top rights body, said Italy must not expel the thousands of immigrants that have arrived in Lampedusa.

Date created : 2011-02-14

  • TUNISIA

    Tunisia promises to help stem flow of illegal migrants

    Read more

  • TUNISIA

    EU to give post-revolution Tunisia €258 million in aid by 2013

    Read more

  • ITALY

    Fleeing Tunisian migrants land on Italian island

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)