Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has defended his country’s immigration policy while on a whirlwind visit to Libya.
While the main reason for the trip was to commemorate the first anniversary of a friendship pact between the two countries, the issue of combatting illegal immigration was also on the agenda. Under the terms of the friendship agreement, Tripoli has pledged to ensure that its coastline is not used as a departure point for migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean. Since May, Italy has returned around 1,000 African migrants to Libya. They mainly get as far as the southern Italian island of Lampedusa where Italy has a holding centre. The pact includes joint patrolling of Libyan waters and a so-called push-back agreement whereby Italians can send African migrants caught at sea back to Libya. Earlier on Sunday, around 75 immigrants including women and children were intercepted at sea by Italian authorities and turned away from the coast of Sicily.