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Tensions rise between Italy, France over immigrants

 
 
 
 
 
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Illegal north African immigrants protest over stagnated evacuation out of the southernmost Italian island of Lampedusa, March 31, 2011. Tensions between Italy and France were rising over the immigration emergency as more refugees coming from the southern island of Lampedusa tried to escape across the frontier and were pushed back by the French police.

Tensions between Italy and France were rising over the immigration emergency as more refugees coming from the southern island of Lampedusa tried to escape across the frontier and were pushed back by the French police.

Undesecretary of State Stefania Craxi said Thursday that France was not doing its part in sharing the burden of hosting some of the over 16,000 of North African immigrants which have landed on Italy’s shores since January.

“This humanitarian emergency does not only concern Italy and we demand that Paris shows solidarity and generosity as becomes relations between European member states,”said Craxi.

Despite recognizing the existence of a bilateral treaty that grants France the automatic right to push back all immigrants coming from Italy, Craxi demanded more flexibility and sense of cooperation from her French colleagues, local media reported.

In March, over 3,300 desperate Tunisian immigrants coming from southern Italy have reached the northern town of Ventimiglia, located at 10 kilometers from the border with France, in search of better conditions. Most arrive by train but some also risk their lives traveling in the trunk of cars.

Ventimiglia is a passage way, from here refugees try to pass the frontier to France in all possible ways (on trains, walking across the border or along the beach) but have been systematically pushed back to Italian territory by the French authorities, who have adopted a stricter policy towards refuges.

In recent weeks some 600 immigrants were intercepted and pushed back by the French frontier police. Following immigration emergency in Italy, France has tighten border controls by placing over 300 policemen on railways.

Ventimiglia’s mayor Gaetano Scuillino has voiced concern that his hometown turned into the”northern Lampedusa.” A new immigrant center was opened here on Thursday but there’s not enough space to host all the refugees being pushed back from France, he said.

Replying to Italy’s criticism, the French government on Thursday said that it was Italy’s duty to send the refugees back home in accordance with the Schengen and bilateral agreements.

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