Thousands Flee the Tunisian Crisis

After the recent uprisings in Tunisia, thousands (more than 5.000) of people are fleeing the country and have landed in the Isle of Lampedusa. The situation of humanitarian emergency has been declared by the Interior Minister Roberto Maroni and by the Council of Ministers. Maroni has asked the European Union to help Italy tackling this difficult situation.

There has been a bit of an argument between the Italian Interior Minister, who accused Europe to be unresponsive and ineffective, and the European Commissioner for the Interior Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom, who expressed a sincere concern for the situation and offered to allocate funds to tackle the emergence. So far, Maroni has noticed, nothing concrete has followed such promising statements.

In the meantime, Maroni has warned against the risks of terrorism and expressed a deep worry for public order and security in Lampedusa. The Tunisian government, in fact, does not have the control of its territory, especially of the coasts from where people leave on board of boats (people pay around 1/1.500 Euro for the journey). Tunisia, in other words, is unable to comply with the bilateral agreement with Italy concerning immigration. As a consequence, among those who reach Italy, there are dangerous criminals and potential terrorists. In order to address this problem, Maroni has asked the Tunisian Prime Minister the permission for the Italian police to monitor at least the major ports of the Northafrican country. After the strong refusal expressed by the Tunisian executive, Italy has turned to the EU asking for the intervention of FRONTEX, the European agency for borders. EU institutions, however, recognize that the issue concerns all Europe and requires a participated commitment.

The Interior Minister has convened the National Committee for Order and Security and has appointed the major of Lampedusa as the Commissioner for the Emergency, endowed with special power. Maroni and Berlusconi have also decided to devolve new buildings to Asylum seekers.

The situation in Lampedusa is serious. The reception centre in the Island is hosting the majority of the newcomers whose number, however, exceeds the actual capacity of the structure. Some refugees have been sent to other centers in Sicily and in the south of Italy. In the last few days, however, the arrivals seem decreased. The situation remains critical. Moreover, many have died in the sea since mid January, trying to reach Italy. The Church is pressing politicians to tackle the situation not only through legal tools but also showing human solidarity toward a tragedy of biblical proportions.