Italy to host immigrants in former military sites

17:24, February 25, 2011      

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Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa launched on Thursday an emergency accommodation plan for the thousands of Maghreb immigrants who had landed on Italian shores, announcing that the government will host them in former military barracks and stations located in the south of the peninsula.

Talking at a television program, La Russa expressed his concerns on the mass exodus of sea refugees, with a total of 6,500 already reaching Italians shores since the outbreak of the Maghreb and Libyan crises.

Italy is facing a real humanitarian emergency and the number of incoming immigrants is fated to further increase, he warned.

"We must be prepared to tackle extraordinary, biblical migrations and expect at least some other 2.5 million arrivals in the Mediterranean in the short run," said La Russa.

The minister said the calculations were even too optimistic, arguing that the figure only related to the number of Maghreb foreigners living in Libya who might decide to escape from the country's violence and instability.

La Russa stressed that the turmoil in Libya had set in motion a dangerous spiral. "We know very well that Libya has always been a privileged place of departure of many refugees coming from all over Africa. Thanks to Italy's treaty with Libyan leader Gaddafi in 2008, this outgoing flux dropped but now things are radically different," he said.

The minister said the government is confident that in the short run Italy could face alone the burden of dealing with the immigrants, but not in the longer term, and has repeatedly called for a European "burden-sharing" approach in dealing with the emergency.

La Russa also said several former military sites located in the south, including the Naples area, will be made available to host the refugees. "But these are not and cannot be a definite solution," he added.

Source: Xinhua

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