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Italy to cooperate with Tunisia on Lampedusa crisis

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-04-04

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi launched a binational commission in Tunisia Monday aimed at halting the influx of refugees in Lampedusa. More than 22,000 Tunisians have landed on the Italian island since January.

AFP - Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced on Monday the creation of a binational commission with Tunisia in a bid to halt the immigration wave from the north African state.

"We have agreed to put in place a technical commission to look into the issue of immigration," the Italian leader announced after meeting Tunisia's interim president Foued Mebazaa and Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi.

Berlusconi's visit comes amid a rising tide of Tunisians arriving by boat at Italy's Lampedusa island.

More than 22,000 migrants mostly from Tunisia have landed on Lampedusa, population 5,000, since president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in a popular revolt in January.

The Italian government has asked Tunis to stop the exodus and to take back those migrants who have already arrived in Italy.

Berlusconi said his country would provide financial aid to allow Tunisia to exercise more effective control over its coastline.

"The most important issue at the moment is the high number of young Tunisians who find themselves in Italy and want to emigrate to Europe," he said.

"The migratory flux continues: in the night from Saturday to Sunday 800 Tunisian migrants disembarked -- thus the necessity to find a solution."

Berlusconi said the repatriation of Tunisians would happen in a "civilised fashion", stressing Italy's strong ties with Tunisia.

Italy's Interior Minister Roberto Maroni will remain in Tunis on Tuesday to work out the final details of a binational accord on the immigration issue.

The massive influx of migrants has sparked weeks of protests from Lampedusa residents and fierce condemnation from aid organisations over living conditions on the overcrowded island.

Date created : 2011-04-04

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