Italy to grant Tunisian migrants permits

2011-04-07 14:01

Rome - Italy will grant "humanitarian" permits to thousands of Tunisian migrants under a decree to be signed later on Thursday that will allow them to travel around Europe, the interior minister said.

"The prime minister will today sign a decree giving those already in Italy... a temporary residence permit for humanitarian protection that will allow them to travel around the Schengen zone," Roberto Maroni told parliament.

The visa-free Schengen area covers the whole of the European Union's 27 member states except Britain and Ireland. The agreement has gradually phased out border controls between these countries.

Maroni said that more than 25 000 undocumented migrants have landed in Italy so far this year on 390 boats - mainly on the island of Lampedusa, a tiny outcrop that is closer to North African than to mainland Italy.

Around 21 000 of the migrants said they were from Tunisia, he added.

France has voiced fears that many of the French-speaking migrants will head for France as soon as they are able to travel freely and has asked Rome to strengthen controls on the border in northwest Italy.

Joint system for action

"The overwhelming majority of the migrants want to join friends and relatives in France or other European countries," the minister said on Thursday.

Maroni - a member of the anti-immigration Northern League party - also said he would meet his French counterpart Claude Gueant on Friday "to come up with a joint system for action" that would involve the European Union.

The minister stressed that the permits would cover only migrants who arrived before Tuesday, when he struck an agreement with Tunisian authorities that will also ease the rules for deporting future migrants back to Tunisia.

Under the agreement, Italy has also agreed to give Tunisia 10 boats and 100 off-road vehicles to patrol its coasts. The Italian interior ministry earlier said that Tunisian border checks were "practically non-existent" at the moment.

Italian media reported that the decree granting the residence permits would be formally approved at a cabinet meeting later on Thursday.

The European Commission earlier this month said it was considering granting temporary protection to the migrants under a 2001 EU directive never used before but added that there was no majority of countries in favour.

Pressure on Tunisia

The mechanism would have to be approved by the European Council, the EU's main decision-making body which represents the 27 member states.

"Right now it's 'every man for himself'... There is no spirit of co-operation," an EU officials said earlier on condition of anonymity.

"The atmosphere is not good," the official said.

Italy has pleaded for help from the rest of the European Union to cope with the immigrant arrivals, but other countries have shown little enthusiasm.

Officials say the problem must be addressed at its source, by prodding Tunisia to step up its own efforts to keep people from fleeing the country.

Tunisia also wants financial aid to revive the country's economy and has told European counterparts that agreeing to take back migrants who travelled illegally to Europe would exacerbate Tunisia's unemployment problem.

"The fragility of the Tunisian political scene... would not have allowed the mass re-entry of citizens who left the coasts of the North African state and arrived in Italy in recent weeks," the interior ministry said in a statement.

Read more on:    italy  |  tunisia

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
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

  • Wednesday Delft - 20:37 PM
    Road name: R300 Southbound
    ROADWORKS - left lane closed at Hindle Road
  • Wednesday Sir Lowry's Pass - 17:57 PM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
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

BlackBerry Curve 8520

Wi-Fi enabled With the BlackBerry Curve 8520 connect to your home...

From R1100.00

I'm shopping for:


You may be required to travel or get information for your job. This may be restricting in some way or something may slow 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.