Italy seeks exit strategy to unilateral migrant protection

Interior minister to discuss Mare Nostrum rebus with Malmstrom

(ANSA) Brussels, August 26 - Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano will seek Wednesday to define with EU Interior Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom an exit strategy for Italy from its costly unilateral "Mare Nostrum" operation rescuing Mediterranean refugees, diplomatic sources say.
    Alfano hopes to get a sympathetic hearing from Malmstrom during their meeting to be held in Brussels Wednesday during a lightning visit to the Belgian capital by the Italian interior minister who wants the EU's Frontex border protection agency and other EU countries to share responsibility with Italy for saving the thousands of refugees who seek to reach Italy from north Africa each year aboard desperately dangerous rafts and dinghies.
    Operation Mare Nostrum organised by the Italian Navy, Coast Guard and merchant vessels is costing the Navy as much as 4 million euros a month in fuel and maintenance costs, putting a hefty strain on the Italian navy budget.
    Frontex officials had a meeting in Rome Tuesday with Italian officials to discuss technical logistics of bringing more countries' navies into the operation on the model of the EU's anti-piracy operation in the Horn of Africa.
    Italy hopes to present a package of measures along those lines to the EU interior ministers' council meeting due to be held in Luxembourg Oct. 9-10 so as to obtain endorsement from the 28 EU member states so as to share the burden of Operation Mare Nostrum by the end of this year.
   

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