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Italy Seeking Ways to Curb Illegal Migration from Libya

The European Commission's deputy president, Franco Frattini, says Europe is ready to open negotiations with Libya to provide financial support in efforts to curb illegal immigration. Returning from meetings in Libya, Italy's interior minister, Giuseppe Pisanu, said the North African country cannot resolve the problem on its own.

Following a two-day visit to Libya to discuss ways to combat illegal immigration, Italy's interior minister, Giuseppe Pisanu, met with European Commission deputy president, Franco Frattini, and Italian foreign minister Gianfranco Fini.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Pisanu said there is a risk that waves of illegal immigrants heading to Italy may increase in the coming months as the weather improves.

Since September there has been an increase in arrivals to Italy by sea, as Moroccans who used to cross into Spain to get into the rest of Europe are changing tactics and now going by boat from Libya to Italy.

Minister Pisanu said Italy is discussing the migrant problem with authorities in Libya and that the collaboration has been going well.

In 2005, he said, Libyan authorities stopped no less than 40,000 illegal immigrants who were hoping to reach Italy, uncovered 45 criminal organizations and reported 5,300 people to the police. He added that they also seized a large number of vehicles for desert transportation and boats.

Despite these successes, the minister said the illegal migrants continue to try to come and that more has to be done.

Libya has become the bottleneck of all, or most of, the immigration from Africa and of a large part of the Middle East. Pisanu said it is clear that on its own Libya will not be able to resolve the problem. He added that Italy too is unable on its own to address the illegal immigration emergency, which is destined to last for a long time.

For his part, Foreign Minister Fini said it is impossible to have effective policies to combat illegal immigration without putting in place effective policies of integration.

European commission deputy president Franco Frattini said $42 million are available for efforts to curb illegal immigration. He said Europe is ready to open negotiations with Libya to provide financial support and is planning specific initiatives.

Frattini said these initiatives should include the joint patrolling of the Mediterranean by member states, so that there can be, among other things, rescue efforts to save lives and a sharing of satellite identification of boats.