Europe should finance legal immigration to halt migrant influx: Italy

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Tripoli, June 25 (IANS/AKI) European states must help fund legal immigration to end “unmanaged migrant flows” and “deadly boat journeys” from North Africa organised by “criminal gangs”, Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Monday during a visit to Libya.

“Europe must give financial support to legal immigration programmes and oppose unmanaged migrant flows,” he said during a visit to a refugee protection centre due to be opened in Tripoli.

“The only real way to fight the people trafficking gangs and prevent deadly sea voyages is to stop these boats from setting sail,” said Salvini, who leads the anti-migrant League party.

Salvini meanwhile ruled out migrant identification ‘hotspots’ in Italy, saying these would fail to “stop the deadly flows” across the Mediterranean.

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“Hotspots in Italy? These would be a problem for us and for Libya itself because the deadly flows would not be stopped,” he said in a tweet.

“We have proposed processing centres on Libya’s southern borders to prevent bottlenecks forming in Tripoli, as occurs in Italy,” the tweet added.

Salvini visited Tripoli on Monday, where he met his Libyan counterpart Abdulsalam Ashour and Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Matig.

The number of migrants making the perilous crossing to Italy from North Africa has plunged this year, according to the United Nations migration agency, the International Organisation for Migration.

A total of 40, 944 people reached Italy by boat this year till June 20 and 960 drowned, compared with 84,675 arrivals and 2,133 deaths over the same period of 2017, the IOM reported.

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Nonetheless, the populist Italian government is eager for the burden of migrant arrivals to be lifted from front-line states and shared more fairly by European Union countries. It has proposed setting up migrant ‘protection centres’ in other EU countries and extending the EU borders and coastguard agency Frontex’s remit to African soil.

Rome also wants to overhaul current EU immigration rules that force migrants to register and apply for asylum in the first European country they reach and require that country to process their claim.

–IANS/AKI

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