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'Catastrophic' migrant wave possible from Libya

'Italy can cope, but not for long,' says interior minister

24 February, 12:06
'Catastrophic' migrant wave possible from Libya (ANSA) - Brussels, February 24 - The turmoil in Libya could unleash a "catastrophic" wave of migrants, forcing the European Union to help Italy, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said ahead of a meeting of EU ministers here Thursday.

Europe, he said "cannot leave Italy on its own" to handle a possible exodus that some have estimated at up to 1.5 million.

"Italy can cope, but not for long," the minister said ahead of the meeting, where interior ministers from Italy, France, Spain, Malta and Cyprus will ask for a special solidarity fund for the countries that will bear the brunt of the wave, as well as a common EU asylum system.

Maroni said he was also "worried" about Al Qaeda statements of support for Libyan rebels.

Earlier, Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said "we must prepare for biblical migrations".

He said the defence ministry had already allocated several military sites as possible extra holding centres. Meanwhile the Libyan crisis continued to hit oil prices with Brent going through the $110 barrier. photo: Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi