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European Union Vows More Help for Italy in Migrant Crisis

  • VOA News

FILE - A woman from Nigeria receives a pair of shoes from Italian aid workers, as she leaves the Golfo Azzurro rescue vessel upon their arrival at the port of Pozzallo, south of Sicily, June 17, 2017.

The European Commission has pledged another $116 million to Italy to help its government manage the Mediterranean migration crisis.

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said in a letter to Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni on Tuesday that he was setting up a special “contact team” in Brussels to coordinate with Italian authorities. The additional financial assistance the commission pledged to Italy raises by 12.5 percent the funds already allocated to Rome, to a total of over $1 billion.

Through the first half of 2017, nearly 84,000 migrants arrived in Italy by sea, 20 percent more than during the same period last year. Detention centers and temporary shelters that Italy has for migrants have reached their maximum capacity of 200,000 people, but there are many other migrants in the country working illegally.

Migrants from Nigeria, Bangladesh and Guinea account for most of those fleeing to Italy on the way to Europe.

Junker also promised to pressure Bangladesh to take back its migrants, since the vast majority of them are ineligible for international protection. He threatened to limit visas to Europe for travelers from the south Asian nation if there was no action by Dhaka.

Meanwhile, rescuers in the Mediterranean who came to the aid of a dinghy packed with migrants Tuesday discovered 13 bodies among them, including pregnant women.

"Thirteen corpses in total. People who had names, surnames, mothers, fathers, friends, and lives," Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish NGO involved in rescues, posted on Twitter. Another 167 people were rescued alive.

A ship operated by the Save The Children group rescued some 70 migrants Tuesday who were also attempting to cross the sea in a small boat.

In other migrant news from around the world:

- The United Nations Children's Fund reported that most children fleeing Africa have no intention of going to Europe. A new study found that 75 percent of children on the move decide to leave unaccompanied. Initially they have no intention of coming to Europe, UNICEF said, but plan to find work in nearby countries.

Yet hundreds of refugee and migrant children told UNICEF in Italy that being kidnapped, arrested and held in prison in Libya, as well as witnessing violence toward other migrants, compelled them to make the risky sea crossing to Europe. At least 12,200 children arrived in Italy in the first half of the year, the U.N. agency reported, all but a few having traveled alone.

- The Dominican Republic granted a one-year extension Tuesday to 230,000 Haitian migrants trying to renew or obtain residency permits. The residency plan was created after a court ruled in 2013 that children born in the Dominican Republic to non-citizens did not qualify for automatic citizenship because their migrant parents were "in transit.''

The vast majority of those affected have been descendants of Haitian migrants. Without the extension announced on Tuesday, they could have faced deportation.

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