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Arab revolts raise new immigration fears in Europe

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BRUSSELS (AFP) – Europe voiced fears Monday about a new wave of illegal immigration after Libya threatened to break its cooperation on controlling the flow and more Tunisians landed on Italian shores.

With thousands fleeing from Tunisia to Italy in the past 10 days after a revolution ousted Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, European governments reacted with anger and dread after Libya warned that it could suspend its cooperation in retaliation for the EU's condemnation of a crackdown on protesters.

Heading into an EU foreign ministers meeting on the turmoil in the Arab world, German European affairs minister Werner Hoyer called the Libyan threat "an incredible mistake," and said the EU would "not allow itself to be blackmailed."

The European Commission in October offered Libya up to 50 million euros (70 million dollars) in aid to stop the flow of illegal migrants to Europe as well as assist refugees from across the region who use the north African country as a jumping-off point to Europe.

"We are extremely concerned about the evolution of the situation in North Africa," said Michele Cercone, spokesman for European home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem, who visited Libya in October to sign a cooperation agenda.

Italy, an entry gate for African migrants seeking a better life in Europe, struck its own controversial agreement with Tripoli last year allowing the Italian navy to intercept boat people and return them to Libya.

But Libyan officials summoned the Hungarian ambassador last week to warn that it would suspend cooperation if the 27-nation bloc continues to "encourage" protests.

Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere admitted that the threat made "many people nervous" but he dismissed it as ridiculous.

However, diplomats warned that if Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi falls, the floodgates to illegal immigration could blow wide open.

As more Tunisian migrants arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa on Monday, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini voiced fears that the Libyan unrest and other revolts across the region could increase the pressure.

"We Europeans are very concerned about the migratory flows impact, that would be one of the consequences of the turbulences," Frattini told reporters.

Warning that Europe would be "paying the price" of economic collapse in Arab nations, he called for an EU pact to help improve the lives of people in the region, a sort of "Marshall Plan," in reference to the US-led reconstruction programme for Europe after World War II.

The upheaval in its southern neighbourhood marks a new test for European solidarity regarding migration flows, following years of unresolved debate about how to handle the issue.

The EU at the weekend launched a mission to help Italy cope with the Lampedusa problem, supplying 30 people, a plane and ships.

"With the migratory pressure centred in some countries -- Greece, Malta, Italy and Spain -- we cannot say to them, 'you're on you're own," said France's European affairs minister Laurent Wauquiez said

"If we have common borders, we have to exercise community solidarity," he said, noting that 25 European nations share a passport-free travel zone.

After EU foreign ministers debate Monday how to support the political transitions so far under way in Egypt and Tunisia, home affairs ministers will meet Thursday to discuss how to further help Italy with its immigration problem.

"We all agree that very special attention must be paid and very special efforts must be deployed regarding the emergency situation created by the influx of immigrants for the time being from Tunisia," said Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi.

Edited by Why_Me


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Filed: Citizen (apr) Country: Brazil
The European Commission in October offered Libya up to 50 million euros (70 million dollars) in aid to stop the flow of illegal migrants to Europe as well as assist refugees from across the region who use the north African country as a jumping-off point to Europe.

the barbary pirates would be jealous.

* ~ * Charles * ~ *

I carry a gun because a cop is too heavy.



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