Alexa

Italy warns of immigration emergency

 An Italian finance police officer leads one of the some 200 Libyans held at a sporting center, in Catania, Sicily, Monday, March 21, 2011. Italy's in...
 Italian Carabinieri police officers guard some 200 Libyans held at a sporting center, in Catania, Sicily, Monday, March 21, 2011. Italy's interior mi...
 Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni gestures during a press conference following a cabinet meeting, in Rome's Palazzo Chigi, Monday, March 21, 2...

Italy Libya

An Italian finance police officer leads one of the some 200 Libyans held at a sporting center, in Catania, Sicily, Monday, March 21, 2011. Italy's in...

Italy Libya

Italian Carabinieri police officers guard some 200 Libyans held at a sporting center, in Catania, Sicily, Monday, March 21, 2011. Italy's interior mi...

Italy Libya Refugees

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni gestures during a press conference following a cabinet meeting, in Rome's Palazzo Chigi, Monday, March 21, 2...

Italy warned Monday that it was facing a refugee and humanitarian emergency, with some 15,000 Tunisians having arrived in recent weeks and fears that the start of U.S. and European airstrikes on Libya could unleash even more migrants.
Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told a news conference that some 200 Libyans from the eastern part of the country had arrived overnight in Catania, Sicily, marking the first major influx from Libya to Italy since the revolt began over a month ago.
But it appeared Maroni's information was incorrect: Officials from Catania's port, police, carabinieri and financial police all refused to confirm initial reports on the ANSA news agency that 191 Libyans had arrived.
These officials spoke instead of Egyptians, with Egyptian passports and currency, and subsequent news reports indicated that the Egyptians had told officials they were Libyan so they could obtain refugee status.
Italy has been sending back the vast majority of Tunisians and Egyptians who have arrived in recent weeks, saying they don't qualify for asylum or refugee status since there are no wars or humanitarian crises in their countries.
Italy has demanded Europe as a whole share the burden of coping with the immigration flows, saying it shouldn't be expected to cope with alone. As it is, the number of Tunisians on the tiny island of Lampedusa _ 4,800 as of Monday _ was almost the size of the 5,000-strong population itself.
Lampedusa's residents are getting increasingly angry over the government's failure to help ease their burden. They have refused plans to set up a tent camp on the island, saying the migrants should be taken elsewhere.
Maroni said several measures would be taken in the coming days to try to stem the flow and ease the burden on Lampedusa: He planned to visit Tunis on Wednesday to press for a resumption of treaty agreements and border controls to stem the tide of migrants.
He also said an Italy navy ship would be sent to Lampedusa to transport migrants off the island to holding centers elsewhere in Italy. And he announced compensation measures for the island, whose economy is driven by tourism. Fears are mounting that the approaching high tourist season will be irreparably harmed by the immigration crisis.