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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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