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Italy to grant permits for Tunisian migrants: ministry

06 April 2011, 19:05 CET
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(ROME) - Italy has agreed to grant temporary residence permits to Tunisian migrants who have arrived recently under a preliminary deal reached in Tunis, the interior ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

Rome will also give Tunisia 10 patrol boats and 100 jeeps to monitor its coasts, in return for a pledge to prevent migrants from leaving and re-admit any who reach Italy after the agreement comes into force.

"Tunisia undertakes to reinforce controls to avoid new departures and to accept the rapid re-admission of people who arrive in Italy, after a decree that grants temporary residence permits comes into force," it said.

"The fragility of the Tunisian political scene, interior ministry experts said, would not have allowed the mass re-entry of citizens who left the coasts of the North African state and arrived in Italy in recent weeks," it added.

A ministry spokeswoman contacted by AFP said that the decree granting residency permits would have to be approved by a meeting of the cabinet and specified that this would only apply to the migrants already in Italy.

The spokeswoman could not say when the decree would be approved.

The interior ministry said that patrols along the Tunisian coastline were "practically non-existent" at the moment.

The aim of the agreement is to "shut off the tap," said Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, who struck the deal in Tunis on Tuesday.

The agreement "will allow us to do this in full collaboration with Tunisian security forces... providing them with all the means necessary," he added.

More than 20,000 mostly Tunisian migrants have arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa in recent weeks. Almost all have been taken to immigrant centres in other parts of Italy and some have escaped from the facilities.

Many of the French-speaking migrants say they want to emigrate to France.

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