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Illegal immigration: No agreement arrived at between Tunis and Rome

Published the:  04/04/2011

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April 4, 2011TAP- No agreement between Tunis and Rome on the issue of illegal immigration was announced at the end of the meeting, on Monday in Tunis, between Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and Interim Prime Minister Béji Caïd Essebsi.
"We understand these youths who were deprived of democracy, freedom and social welfare, and who decide to immigrate to Europe, seen as an El Dorado by people from the South in search of a new start in life," said Mr. Berlusconi in a news briefing at the Kasbah.
He said that the "little" island of Lampedusa (first stop for the immigrants), which has 5,000 inhabitants and 6,000 illegal immigrants, is facing enormous difficulties that result from this "human Tsunami."
"Eight hundred new illegal immigrants arrived last night. And it is urgent that we arrive at a solution," he insisted.
A technical commission of the Italian Interior Ministry has started from today "a thorough examination" of this file with its Tunisian counterpart, announced Mr. Berlusconi, pointing out that Italy's Interior Minister Roberto Maroni will be back to Tunis tomorrow to reach an agreement that meets the common will of the two countries to reach a satisfactory settlement.
Italy is ready, he said, to bring assistance to ensure "efficient (land and sea) control" that would help the Tunisian authorities "step up guarding" of their coasts.
On the issue of illegal immigrants' repatriation, the Italian premier said talks "are progressing favorably" between Rome and Tunis.
He emphasized his country's will to" handle this question in an absolutely civilized manner."
This problem is also of concern to the other European countries, as illegal immigrants are seeking to reach French-speaking countries via Italy, he specified.
An Italian-French summit gathering the two countries' interior, foreign affairs and economy ministers is scheduled for this week.
Tunisia suffers a similar problem, he pointed out referring to the massive flow of refugees fleeing violence in Libya.
He praised, in this regard, the way the Tunisian authorities dealt with this crisis, reminding that his country had been the first to send aid to support Tunisia in its humanitarian management of the flow of evacuees.
The Italian premier hailed, in conclusion, the "friendly and cordial "ties binding Italy and Tunisia, such bonds that "will continue to develop" as part of sharing common values and freedoms "which the Tunisians yearned for and have now become a reality".
Mr. Caid Essebsi stressed the two countries' will to seek to further strengthen the privileged relations binding them "in the interest of both countries and both peoples".
He said that his meeting with Mr. Berlusconi had been an occasion for a "great discussion" on the future of bilateral relations".
After that discussion, I am confident about the future of our relations", he underlined.
Mr. Berlusconi was initially expected to give a news conference before departure from Tunis-Carthage Airport, but he was urgently called back in Rome.