Italian government seeks EU help on Tunisians migrants

Italy’s Interior Minister Roberto Maroni requests for funds 15th February 2011: With thousands of Tunisians arriving on its shores subsequent to Tunisia’s uprising in January, the Italian government has officially appealed for assistance from the European Union to help it manage. Some 5,000 migrants have landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa in recent days.
Italy’s Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said he filed a request for funds on Monday.

The minister asserted he had asked for the intervention of the EU’s border management agency, Frontex, and positioned extra 200 soldiers on alert, to oversee the centres where the migrants were staying.

One such centre on the island – which houses 850 people – has been reopened and thousands have been shipped to Sicily, where there are more facilities.

The Italian request for funds came as EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton visited Tunis. She said the EU wanted to be Tunisia’s strongest supporter in pushing towards democracy and announced new EU help of 17m euros (£14m; $23m).

Italy’s interior minister said the country was seeking some 100m euros ($134m; £84m) to tackle the arrival. The mayor of Lampedusa has declared a state of emergency.

According to a government statement quoted by AFP news agency, Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told EU President Herman Van Rompuy that the situation was pressing and concerned all of the European Union.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) described the migrants as "a mixed flow". They stated some were running away from anxiety in Tunisia, following last month’s uprising, while others were grabbing the chance to get to Europe to find work.

Lampedusa Mayor Bernadino Rubeis said on Tuesday that there was an entire nation trying to escape Tunisia to reach Italy and then to go on to other countries.

Since Tunisia removed from power Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali last month, police patrols along the coast have been erratic.

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