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Italy Considers Emergency Visas to Ease Migrant Strain

FILE - Italian border police officers escort sub Saharan men on their way to a relocation center, after arriving aboard the Golfo Azzurro rescue vessel at the port of Augusta, in Sicily, Italy.

As Italians confront the pressure of new migrant arrivals with two distinct reactions - putting out the welcome mat, or erecting barricades - the country's leaders are seeking to puncture what they see as Europe's posture of offering moral support instead of concrete action.

The latest proposal has been dubbed the “nuclear option.” It calls for emergency visas for migrants rescued at sea.

Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano has denied reports that the numbers could reach 200,000. But other Italian officials have acknowledged the plan is under consideration, if only to gain negotiating leverage. And the threat of the visas, which would allow free movement in the Schengen area, is enough to cause concern among Italy's neighbors. Austria's foreign minister on Monday vowed to protect the border if adopted.