News / Europe

Italy Seeks EU Assistance to Deal With Refugee Influx

Would-be migrants believed to be from Tunisia are seen on the shores of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy, after arriving there by boat, February 11, 2011
Would-be migrants believed to be from Tunisia are seen on the shores of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy, after arriving there by boat, February 11, 2011

The Italian government is seeking help from European Union member states to deal with an influx of refugees as the wave of unrest spreads in North Africa.  Some European agencies estimate that as many as 1.5 million refugees could come to Italy to escape the turmoil in their home countries.  European states are divided on how to deal with the problem.

Hoping to escape the chaos from the uprisings in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, boatloads of illegal immigrants battle the choppy waters of the Mediterranean Sea looking for safe harbor.

Italy's Guardia di Finanza, which normally patrol these waters for drug smugglers, says more than 6,000 refugees have already been detained in the island of Lampedusa, about 120 kilometers from Tunisia.

At a meeting of European interior ministers in Belgium Thursday, Italian Minister Roberto Maroni predicted more would arrive soon.

"The invasion of one million to 1.5 million refugees in Italy, to take estimates by Frontex [EU border protection agency] yesterday, would bring any state to its knees," he said.

Maroni wants the EU to establish a solidarity fund to assist countries that are the first to absorb the influx of refugees.

The ministers welcome the spirit of democracy sweeping through North Africa, but they are split on how to deal with the consequences.

Germany and Austria believe the estimates are exaggerated but Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Rubalcaba says a unified response is needed.

"What we cannot do is to think that the migrants who arrived in Italy this week, arrived in Italy," he said.  "No, they arrived in Europe, because Italy is a gateway to Europe and that's why we need to approach this problem together because this is a problem we all share."

The unrest spreading throughout the Arab world is bound to have significant economic implications for the region.  But speaking in Washington Wednesday, Tunisia's newly appointed central bank governor, Mustapha Nabli, said Europe stands to benefit from the wave of new workers.

"We have looked at the numbers and there is a good match actually in terms of demographics for Europe to absorb significant numbers of laborers from North Africa," he said.  "So it is a positive sum game, it is not a negative sum game."

Ministers argue additional manpower and space will be required to deal with the mass exodus. There is also fear the tubulence could create an opening for terrorist groups.

But many of the migrants say all they seek is liberty and the chance for a better life.  One Tunisian man said he paid 500 euro for a 15-hour journey in a small boat crammed with 200 migrants.

"We are searching for freedom and to integrate into the society," he said. "We are not terrorists or thieves. We are people looking for a better life."

Many will not have that chance.  Migrants who arrived in Lampedusa, Italy illegally are being detained in temporary compounds before they are slowly returned to their homes.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid