Magazine article European Social Policy

Home Affairs Council : It's Italy versus 26 on Tunisian Migrants

Magazine article European Social Policy

Home Affairs Council : It's Italy versus 26 on Tunisian Migrants

Article excerpt

Meeting in Luxemburg, on 11 April, the EU's home affairs ministers urged Rome to send back Tunisian migrants who recently arrived in Italy for economic reasons. France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Austria following tension over the last few days between Paris and Rome, French Home Affairs Minister Claude Gueant is far from being the only one in favour of closing borders to Tunisians who arrived in Italy as economic migrants' after the fall of Ben Ali's regime. Indeed, Italy has decided to issue temporary residence permits to some 25,000 migrants. For the most part, these Tunisian migrants are not asylum seekers but migrants wishing to rejoin family or friends in France or Belgium. Temporary residence permits would allow them to circulate freely in the EU for three months. If Italy goes ahead with this project, several EU countries have threatened to reinstate border control. This would go against free movement within the Schengen area, which brings together 25 countries.

On arrival in Luxemburg and before rejoining his EU counterparts, German Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said: "It cannot be in Europe's interest for us to be forced to introduce new border controls". Following in the footsteps of the French, who "have introduced very strict controls," and of Austria, which is "thinking about it," the German minister stated that his country was also prepared to do so "if necessary". On the Spanish front, Minister Alfredo Rubalcaba was equally unequivocal: "Tunisians who have arrived in Italy are for the most part illegal migrants. They must return to their home, and Tunisia must accept them".

Italy, which has attacked the other member states for their lack of "solidarity" on migration issues, is therefore isolated in its position. Meanwhile, Rome repeatedly calls for Europe to "share the burden of immigration".

According to a diplomatic source, "not a single country" has backed Italian Interior Affairs Minister Roberto Maroni's request to apply a 2001 directive on temporary protection in the case of a mass influx of refugees. …

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