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Italians blocked in Tripoli airport

Entry to Libya denied to all Schengen area citizens

15 February, 18:23
Italians blocked in Tripoli airport (supersedes previous) (ANSA) - Tripoli, February 15 - A total of 22 Italians are currently blocked at the international airport in Tripoli following Libya's decision to suspend all entry visas issued in the Schengen area, the Italian consul general told ANSA by phone Monday evening.

Francesca Tardioli said that 40 Italians arrived Sunday night, when Libya began denying entry, and while some were finally allowed to enter the country before the ban took effect, three Italians were repatriated to Italy.

''We are giving our assistance and trying to resolve individual situations on a case-by-case basis,'' Tardioli added.

The consul general has been at the airport since Sunday night.

The Italian foreign ministry on Monday advised Italians not to travel to Libya until the situation has been resolved.

Aside from the there Italians, Libya sent back nine Portuguese nationals, a Frenchman and a European citizen who arrived from Cairo.

Libyan authorities officially confirmed Monday afternoon that no further entry visas would be issued to citizens from countries which are part of the Schengen open border accord and those who arrived with a Schengen visa would not be allowed into Libya.

Libya's initiative was also confirmed on Monday to ANSA by the Italian ambassador to Libya, Francesco Paolo Trupiano.

The ambassador added that he had been in contact with Libyan Foreign Minister Mousa Kousa but would not give any details on their discussion.

There are reports of chaos at the Libyan capital's international airport.

According to the Alitalia country manager in Libya, Gianluca Della Torre, "everything began Sunday around 8pm when 40 passengers from Tunis and Malta we stopped on their arrival.

Then the same thing happened when the 12:45am Alitalia flight arrived. The last passengers to be questioned were allowed to leave at 4.45am," before the entry ban went into full effect.

The decision by Libya to suspend visa for citizens from Schengen countries is believed to be the result of a dispute between the North African country and Switzerland.

The dispute began when Switzerland, which joined Schengen in December 2008, issued a 'black list' of 188 'undesirable' Libyans who should be denied entry into the Schengen area, including one of the sons of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi and other family members.

Hannibal Gaddafi was placed on the list because he and his wife were detained by Swiss authorities in July 2008 for allegedly mistreating their domestic help.

The Schengen area includes all European Union countries with the exception of Britain and Ireland, plus Iceland, Cyprus and Switzerland. photo: Libyan leader Gaddafi

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