Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Rome may grant temporary permits to allow immigrants from North Africa to travel to other European countries in order to relieve pressure on the tiny southern island of Lampedusa.
AFP - Silvio Berlusconi said Friday he may allow a wave of immigrants from North Africa to join relatives and friends across Europe, despite open reluctance from European countries to take them in.
"Repatriation is the main solution" to the country's immigration crisis, the prime minister said, but "many immigrants have expressed a desire to join family and friends in France, Germany and other countries."
"Faced with the migrants' declared wish to go to other countries, we could grant temporary permits to stay that would allow them to circulate freely in Europe," he added.
Berlusconi also said immigrants who hoped to travel to other countries would be "transferred to reception centres close to the borders" of Italy.
Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told reporters Friday the move was designed to "put pressure" on Europe in the face of "an utter refusal to collaborate."
Berlusconi is set to travel to Tunis on Monday to meet with Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi and ask Tunisia to take back thousands of migrants who have washed up on its southern shores since the beginning of the year.
"A definitive decision will be taken after the meeting with the Tunisian government," the premier said.
Maroni, who will accompany Berlusconi on the trip, said Rome expected two things from Tunis: "repatriation and a stop to departures."
"We will go to Tunis on Monday to persuade or even compel Tunisia to uphold its commitment" to prevent people from setting off in rickety boats for Mediterranean shores, he said.
Maroni and Foreign Minister Franco Frattini travelled to Tunis last Friday and said Italy would give Tunisia 80 million euros ($113 million) to fight illegal immigration and 150 million euros credit to help relaunch its economy.
Berlusconi also stressed the need to keep pressuring the European Commission for help with the situation and announced plans to meet with the commission president Jose Barroso to discuss financial and logistical aid.
Date created : 2011-04-01