Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedozi revealed a plan to control the Tunisian coasts through joint patrols between the two countries to prevent the flow of migrants to the Italian shores. He plans to intensify intelligence activity in the port of Sfax to stop what he called "criminal organisations" building boats that transport illegal migrants.
In an interview with the newspaper La Stampa, he warned of the arrival of more than 400,000 irregular migrants to his country by the end of the current year.
Piantedozi presented a "work plan" to address the: "Emergency that the country is expected to experience in the summer, given the doubling of the flow of refugees by 303 per cent between January 1st and March 28th, compared to the same period last year."
The plan includes: "Controlling the Tunisian maritime borders through joint patrols at sea and on land, intensifying intelligence activity in the port of Sfax to prevent the construction and equipping of ships and small boats by criminal organisations, as well as cooperating with the countries of origin of the migrants to return them afterwards."
Furthermore, he plans to declare a state of emergency on the islands of Lampedusa and Pantelleria to establish new shelters and accelerate the deportation of migrants.
The Italian plan focuses mainly on Tunisia and the city of Benghazi in eastern Libya, controlled by General Khalifa Haftar's forces and considered one of the main departure points for illegal migration boats heading to Italy.
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Piantedozi explained: "A series of activities will be carried out to reduce departing migrants and increase their return to their home countries. The Italian government is committed to relaunching the strategic dialogue – at both political and operational levels – with the Tunisian authorities and the participation of the European Commission to enhance joint patrols on the Tunisian coasts and hinder the construction of ships and boats used in migration operations. It is also essential to agree with Haftar's forces to strengthen measures to prevent the flow of migrants."
He spoke about the possibility of involving army forces in monitoring the coasts and combating the phenomenon of clandestine migration, as well as granting financial assistance worth 500 euros to Tunisia and Libya as compensation for each migrant returned after their asylum application is rejected.
The European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling on Thursday condemning the Italian government in a case brought against it by four Tunisian migrants who arrived on the island of Lampedusa. The Italian authorities detained and deported them illegally to Tunisia.
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