Italy concerned about influx of Egyptian immigrants

08:38, February 16, 2011      

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Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni Tuesday expressed concern about an influx of Egyptian immigrants following the unrest in Egypt, while the European Union (EU) said it is ready to offer a helping hand.

A wooden fishing boat carrying some 50 Egyptian illegal immigrants was intercepted by Italian police Monday near the southern city of Ragusa, Sicily. At a press conference held in Catania, Sicily, Maroni said he wished that the incident was only an isolate case.

In the meantime, almost 5,300 Tunisians have landed on the tiny island of Lampedusa, Sicily since Jan. 15 after then Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben fled his country following weeks of demonstration. Maroni said that until now immigration flows from Tunisia are not controlled by criminal organizations.

However, Maroni said an unprecedented influx of immigrants poses a threat to Italy and to the whole Europe as well, warning that an influx may provide an opportunity for terrorists' infiltration.

Maroni reaffirmed that Europe cannot remain indifferent in the face of the immigration emergency and should take a strong position. "It is not just a matter of public policy and not concerns only the Interior Ministers, but the heads of state."

The EU said Tuesday that it is ready to cooperate with Italy to handle the influx of Tunisian immigrants.

Cecilia Malmstrom, the spokesperson for European Internal Affairs Commissioner, said that the Commissioner has already identified a series of concrete measures to meet Italy's needs, according to local news agency Ansa.

Malmstrom said the 100 million euros (about 135 million U.S. dollars) of aid Italy requested on Monday to deal with the emergency could be granted "quite quickly."

Source: Xinhua

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