The EU border agency FRONTEX said Tuesday that it would launch a relief operation "within days" to help Italian authorities deal with the recent mass arrival of illegal immigrants from Tunisia.
AFP - The EU border agency FRONTEX will help Italian authorities deal with a wave of illegal immigration from Tunisia on the island of Lampedusa, its chief Ilkka Laitinen said Tuesday.
"It is a matter of days and this operation will be launched," Laitinen said in Berlin, adding that it will comprise between 30 and 50 personnel, "some vessels and a couple of aircraft."
He stressed however that FRONTEX will play only a "secondary" role behind Italy, which already has "considerable resources."
Jacob lippincott reports for France 24 from Tunis, Tunisia
Speaking at a European police congress, he said that FRONTEX personnel were already in Italy but would soon travel to Lampedusa, where they will assist in processing migrants and escorting them back to their own countries.
The past week has seen a sharp spike in migrants attempting to make it into the European Union from Tunisia, with some 5,000 brought to tiny Lampedusa the after being intercepted by coastguards.
The wave of immigration comes around a month after a revolution in Tunisia that unseated a 23-year regime but which has left the North African country wracked by social and economic tensions.
Italy has declared an emergency and has appealed for European aid.
Lampedusa residents worried by influx of migrants
Hundreds of the Tunisian migrants have already been taken by plane or by ferry to immigrant detention centres in other parts of Italy for processing.
Date created : 2011-02-15