Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Surprise , surprise : Gaddafi failing to keep his end of bilateral deal


Italy fingers Libya on immigration

Tripoli failing to keep its end of bilateral deal

(ANSA) - Milan, October 7 - Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni on Tuesday condemned Libya for failing to keep its end of a bilateral deal, as dozens more migrants arrived by sea from north Africa. Three boats carrying 149 people were stopped near the southernmost Italian island of Lampedusa in the early hours of Tuesday, prompting angry comments from Maroni over an accord signed in August.

''Around 99.9% of illegals who arrive in Lampedusa set out from Libya,'' he said in a radio interview. ''Libya promised more controls but these are not being carried out effectively as we requested''. Rome pledged to fund medical and infrastructure projects under August's five-billion-dollar colonial compensation deal in exchange for Libya implementing previously agreed measures aimed at reducing migrant arrivals in Italy, such as joint patrols of the Libyan coast.

But three weeks after the agreement was signed, it seemed headed for trouble, when Maroni announced there had been no drop in the number of migrants arriving from Libya and threatened to block certain projects.

Tripoli issued an angry reply via the Libyan ambassador to Rome, saying Libya ''had never asked Italy for help'' in dealing with migrants.

On Tuesday, Maroni accused Tripoli of refusing to accept the delivery of six high-speed motorboats for joint patrols off the Libyan coast. ''We are waiting hopefully for the Libyan government to give us clearance,'' he said.

''Saving a sinking boat in international waters is clearly an obligation but if boats carrying illegals were stopped at the departure point then this problem wouldn't arise''. Three boats were brought safely to Lampedusa on Tuesday morning although coast guards said others had also been sighted, probably as a result of the sudden improvement in weather. There were 61 women and 41 children among the 149 foreigners brought to the island's reception centre for processing. Hundreds of migrants are stopped in Italian waters each year en route to Europe. Lampedusa, which is closer to Africa than Italy, is the first port of call for most of these migrants, and facilities on the tiny island are often strained to breaking point.


The agreement Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi signed with Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi at the end of August has not yet been published or ratified in Italy. On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the full text of the measure would be put to parliament within two weeks, along with a ratification bill. A deal to compensate Libya for Italy's colonial occupation has been the subject of sporadic negotiations for over a decade. In 2004, Libya promised to stem the flow of migrants leaving its shores under a separate agreement.

Although hailed as a victory by the Berlusconi government of the day, it made no impact on the number of arrivals. The new compensation deal requires Libya to implement its 2004 promises, which includes patrols of Libya's southern borders to prevent migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Chad from crossing the country to arrive at the coast.

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