What if Arab revolutions launched a thousand ships? Italy has not felt this vulnerable to illegal immigration since communism collapsed in Albania 20 years ago. Hundreds of thousands of Albanians back then caused a national crisis in Italy, welcomed at first but not for long. The material and political challenges were immense.
Events today in north Africa threaten to eclipse the Albanian crisis.
At a meeting in Rome, Italy’s Interior Minister Roberto Moroni and those of the five other European Union countries touching the Mediterranean have met to plan emergency strategy.
Moroni said: “We ask that a special European solidarity fund be created to ensure that the countries feeling primary impact from the humanitarian crises in progress will have the resources needed, provided by all the countries of Europe.”
Libya’s 2,000 kilometres of coastline are a launch pad for many illegal immigrants heading for the closest EU country – Italy.
Rome lavished attention on Colonel Gaddafi in recent years and in 2008 conceived a friendship treaty under which the Libyans agreed to patrol the sea to curtail clandestine migration, in exchange for money.
That arrangement has been outstripped by the current events.
Since Sunday, the ships and aircraft of the European border control agency Frontex have been deployed in the sensitive area.
Frontex has released an estimate saying that as many as one and a half million migrants are ready to risk anything to set foot on European soil.
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