Italy rescues 4,000 migrants in 48 hours, calls for help from Eu

Most arrivals are asylum seekers, says Interior Minister Alfano

09 April, 19:28

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    (ANSAmed) - ROME - Italy issued a fresh call for help from the European Union Wednesday after rescuing more than 4,000 migrants in 48 hours. Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said in a radio interview that most migrants now disembarking on Italy's shores are political asylum seekers, and Europe must give Italy a bigger hand in processing and relocating them. "Hundreds of thousands are in Libya waiting to get on a boat", Alfano told Sole 24 Ore financial paper's Radio24. "It is of the essence that the international community set up refugee camps as well as bilateral control over coasts and departures".

    The minister's comments followed on news that Italian authorities rescued some 4,000 migrants off several unseaworthy boats in the past 48 hours. Every year, tens of thousands of migrants arrive in Italy, which is the first landfall for those trying to reach Europe by boat from North Africa. Many die while attempting the hazardous crossing in rickety, overcrowded vessels after being charged exorbitant prices by human traffickers. After some 400 people drowned in two migrant-boat disasters in October 2013, Italy set up a surveillance and rescue operation called Mare Nostrum to prevent further deaths at sea.

    "We are rescuing thousands of migrants with our ships", Alfano continued. "We must speed up procedures to expel those who have no right to stay, and to receive those who have a right to asylum". Some 15,000 migrants have landed on Italy's coasts since the beginning of the year, Alfano said. "Most asylum seekers don't even want to stay in Italy. Other countries must take these people in, because that's where they wanted to go in the first place", the minister explained. "Europe must understand that we can't take them all in. And the EU needs to boost our border defense system", said Alfano.

    He went on to blast critics in the anti-immigration Northern League, which sponsored a law making illegal immigration a crime that was recently repealed. "I would remind them that the migrant influx peaked in 2011, just after illegal immigration was criminalized", the minister said.

    Also on Wednesday, the chairman of the Senate human rights commission refuted the minister's claims that Italy is under attack by a wave of migrants. "This is not an invasion. We've known for a long time that this was going to happen", said Senator Luigi Manconi of the ruling Democratic Party (PD) "We should take a serious look at ourselves and at the reasons why we failed to take the necessary steps to receive people we can easily take care of, without involving other European countries". "Italy must do its part, and on this matter our conscience is not as clear as it should be", he added. The country must put its own house in order, both in terms of domestic policy and of international treaties it has signed on to but doesn't always respect, the PD Senator pointed out, echoing many previous calls. (ANSAmed). 

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