Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said on Monday that “[i]f [the Tunisian Government] do[es] not send specific signals [and begin] keeping the promise of a commitment to stop the migration, Italy will proceed with the forced repatriations.” (“Se non manderà segnali concreti, mantenendo la promessa di un impegno per fermare i flussi migratori, l’Italia procederà con i rimpatri forzosi.”) Maroni also said “Tunisia had promised an immediate commitment to stop migration, but the boats continue to arrive. We are not subject to blackmail as with Libya for oil. [Tunisia is] dependent on us, especially in the tourism sector.”
Foreign Minister Frattini said that if Tunisian migrants do not agree to assisted returns to Tunisia, with the possible payment of €1500 using EU funds, “there is a second level of intervention for those who do not accept assisted repatriation, which is stated in the Bossi-Fini law: expulsion.”
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The Italian government has tentatively considered the possibility of offering €1500 to any Tunisian who agrees to return to Tunisia. Foreign Minister Frattini said that Italy could pay the funds to those migrants willing to leave and that the funds would then be reimbursed to Italy by the EU Commission. The IOM would likely be asked to administer the program. The proposal was immediately and strongly criticised by Umberto Bossi the head of the Northern League and a fellow minister in the Berlusconi Government. Bossi called for the migrants to be returned to Tunisia. A statement posted later in the day on the Foreign Ministry web site said that the proposal would “be activated only in the presence of a full financing on the part of the European Union.”
The situation on Lampedusa continues to deteriorate. There were approximately 1000 new migrant arrivals yesterday. The migrant population on the island is approximately 5000 with 2500 people sleeping rough in makeshift tents made of plastic sheeting.
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Click here for brief statement from Ministry of Foreign Affairs.