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Italy, France announce agreement on immigration patrol

04-09-2011 13:10 BJT

MILAN, Italy, April 8 (Xinhua) -- Italy and France have agreed to work together to stem the flow of illegal immigrants fleeing the turmoil in North Africa.

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni and French counterpart Claude Gueant met here Friday and hammered out an agreement to deal with the issue.

"We agreed on the creation of a workgroup aimed at taking initiatives to block the departure of illegal migrants from Tunisia," Maroni told a press conference after the one-hour meeting at Milan Prefecture.

He said Italy and France would start a combined aerial and naval surveillance of the Tunisian coast to prevent illegal departures, and study together a repatriation program with the help of the European Union.

"Italy cannot be left alone to face this situation, the European Union must play a more active role," the Italian minister said, adding he was "satisfied" with the meeting because "everything can be solved though collaboration".

Gueant said there was agreement on the interpretation and application of the Schengen Treaty, subject of rising tensions between the two countries after Italy granted temporary visas to thousands of North African migrants who have arrived by boats in the past three months, mainly from Tunisia.

"Temporary residence permits issued by the Italian government open the possibility of free circulation in Schengen states, but in accordance with article 5 of the treaty, migrants should have with them documents and financial resources, and it is up to each country to verify these conditions," he said.

In his view, "there is no reason why France and Italy should welcome all these migrants who came to Europe for economic reasons, so we will work together to repatriate them".

According to Maroni, 26,000 migrants, most of them from Tunisia, have landed in Italy so far this year following turmoil in North Africa.

The diplomatic talks on immigration issues will continue next Monday at a gathering of the EU's justice and home affairs ministers in Luxembourg.

Editor:Du Xiaodan |Source: Xinhua

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