Italy calls for EU action plan after Lampedusa disaster
Alfano says Frontex must use ships, aircraft better08 October, 14:41
"A European action plan is needed," Alfano said upon arriving at a meeting of EU interior ministers in Luxemburg. "The EU has to be more involved in saving human lives. We are in the middle of the Mediterranean, we have saved thousands and thousands of people. "Now we are asking for the EU to give us a hand with the reinforcement of the border controls". Between 1 January and 30 September this year, 30,100 migrants reached Italy on boats from North Africa, the UN's refugee agency UNHCR says. The biggest groups were from Syria (7,500), Eritrea (7,500) and Somalia (3,000).
Most of the 363 people feared dead in last week's migrant-boat disaster are thought to have come from Somalia and Eritrea. Alfano also called for the presence of EU border agency Frontex to be boosted and for Italy to get more help with handling the migrants after they land.
Frontex helps Italy intercept migrant boats, but its two operations in the southern Mediterranean have limited resources - a total of four ships, two helicopters and two planes. "Frontex has to employ its aircraft and ships better in the central Mediterranean, therefore in front of Italy, and we are asking for a concrete European plan.
"We also need a hand for the relocation of the migrants after they have been saved. We need economic assistance with this". The deputy premier tried not to be drawn into the debate about whether to reform Italy's allegedly strict migration laws, which were drafted by the centre-right political bloc he belongs to.
These laws, among other things, make being an undocumented migrant a criminal offence, which is controversial even though many other developed nations have similar measures in place.
"This issue is not part of today's meeting," Alfano said.
"Let's not weaken the national front with internal controversies".