Italy fears Libya migrant exodus

2011-02-23 13:03

Milan - Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Wednesday he feared an immigrant exodus on a biblical scale if Muammar Gaddafi is ousted, predicting up to 300 000 Libyans could try to flee their country.

Italy is already grappling with a mass influx of immigrants from Tunisia since the fall of its veteran ruler but Frattini said that would be nothing compared to the number of immigrants that could flee neighbouring Libya.

"There would be an exodus of biblical proportions, a problem that Italy cannot, must not underestimate," Frattini told the Corriere della Sera daily.

"We know what awaits us when the Libyan regime falls: A wave of 200-300 000 immigrants. That would be ten times the number of Albanians in the 1990s" who headed to Italy following the demise of the communist regime in Tirana.

Libya shut down illegal immigration flows across the Mediterranean to Italy after signing a friendship treaty with its former colonial overlord in 2008 that facilitated massive investments between the two countries.

But Italian fears that the flow would resume if Gaddafi is ousted have been fuelled by the arrival of thousands of Tunisians on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa since Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled last month.

The boatloads of immigrants have overwhelmed authorities on the tiny island and prompted Italy to appeal for emergency funds from the European Union.

Gas supplies cut

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has developed close ties with Gaddafi, with Libya accounting for 13% of Italy's gas supplies and almost a quarter of its oil.

But the growing turmoil in Libya led to the halt of gas supplies on Tuesday after Italy's ENI suspended some of its operations in the energy-rich state.

Frattini said it was hard for the government in Rome to envisage a scenario without Gaddafi, who came to power in 1969, at the helm in Tripoli.

"The problem is that, to an extent, Gaddafi is Libya. We don't know anything else. There are no other politicians or political parties. And at the moment, it is impossible to imagine a future after him," the foreign minister said.

The anti-Gaddafi uprising has sent shockwaves through the Italian business world, with the stock market in Milan suffering sharp drops this week, mainly due to companies linked to Libya.

Italy ruled the country between 1911 and 1942.

Ambassador resigns

Meanwhile, the Libyan ambassador to Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei has resigned from his posts, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday, reportedly in protest at Gaddafi's crackdown on the Libyan people.

Salaheddin M El Bishari told The Jakarta Post newspaper that it was his "personal decision" and he was worried for the safety of his family back in Libya.

"Soldiers are killing unarmed civilians mercilessly. Using heavy weaponry, fighter jets and mercenaries against its own people. It is not acceptable. I have had enough of it. I don’t tolerate it anymore," he said.

"I have submitted my resignation as secretary of the Libyan People's Council in Indonesia in response to what's going on in my country."

The ambassador was not available to comment on the report but an Indonesian foreign ministry spokesperson confirmed that he had notified the government of his decision to resign.


Read more on:    muammar gaddafi  |  libya  |  italy  |  north africa  |  uprisings

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Madonsela to probe ANC food-for-votes claims

Public protector Thuli Madonsela has launched an investigation into whether the ANC has used state resources for its electoral campaign, says a report.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Apple iPad 3 Black 64GB 9.7" Tablet With WiFi & 4G

Retina Display Finally the incredible Retina display technology from the iPhone...

From R7699.00

I'm shopping for:


You may be good at organising events but they do take their toll on your energy levels. You may need some time out today just more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.