During a controversial debate, on 30 March, on the Italian island of Lampedusa, the country's Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, announced the mass evacuation of immigrants arriving on the island between now and the end of this week - while the EU continued to call for Italy to address the situation.
"The vast majority of immigrants to Lampedusa are economic immigrants," highlighted the spokesperson for the Commissioner in charge of immigration, Cecilia Malmstrom. According to the Commission, Rome should use EU funds available for 2010-2011; 53 million for border surveillance, 13.7 million for the return of illegal immigrants, and 47.5 million for the integration of refugees.
In order to carry out its evacuation of refugees, the Italian government has decided to double the capacity of the welcome facilities in the Manduria camp in the Apulia region from 1,500 to 3,000 places. Other places in Southern Italy that will be affected include Trapani and Caltanissetta in Sicily (800 and 500 places, respectively) and Potenza in Basilicata (500 places). The only area in Central or Northern Italy that will take refugees is Pisa in Tuscany (500 places), a region that has historically been held by the leftist opposition. These transfers will require the suspension of disagreements within the party of Berlusconi (two members have resigned) and between regions - such as Tuscany.
Berlusconi has said that immigrants will be dispersed across all of Italy, but his Interior minister, Roberto Maroni, a member of the Northern League party, has indicated rather that they be taken by camps in the South. …