Italy calls illegal immigrants from northern Africa threat to security

08:37, February 16, 2011      

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Italian officials say their country is at risk because of large numbers of illegal immigrants fleeing northern Africa in the wake of demonstrations that led to the stepdown of the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia.

About 50 Egyptians were stopped Monday on a small fishing boat near the southern city of Ragusa, Sicily, just days after Egyptian President Hosini Mubarak resigned in the face of 18 days of unprecedented popular protests.

Italian police intercepted the immigrants' wooden boat but officials said nearly 5,300 Tunisians have landed on the tiny island of Lampedusa since Jan. 15, the day after the then Tunisian president fled amidst massive demonstrations.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said the unprecedented influx of immigrants poses a threat to Italy and to the whole of Europe as well.

The illegal immigrants could provide an opportunity for terrorist militants to infiltrate the masses of people looking for a source of income in Europe, Maroni said, asking the European Union for 100 million euros in aid to shore up security.

It was reported that migrants were gathering in Tunisia's ports and were paying smugglers up to 1,400 euros for passage across the Mediterranean to Italy.

Those who reached Lampedusa said they were desperate for work and were fleeing violence and disorder in their homeland, the Adnkronos news agency reported.

Source: Xinhua

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