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Talks Being Held In Paris On Italy's Growing Migrant Crisis

  • RFE/RL

A Libyan coast guardsman stands on a boat during the rescue of 147 illegal immigrants attempting to reach Europe.

The interior ministers of France, Germany, and Italy are due to meet in Paris on July 2 to discuss a "coordinated approach" to help Italy deal with increasing numbers of migrants arriving in its ports.

The crisis talks come after appeals from the United Nations for more help for Italy, who has threatened to close its ports and impound rescue ships run by aid agencies carrying people from Libya.

Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, on July 1 said that "what is happening in front of our eyes in Italy is an unfolding tragedy."

The international community should do more to help Italy contend with the massive numbers of migrants arriving on its shores, Grandi said.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, his German counterpart, Thomas de Maiziere, and Italy's Marco Minniti are expected to meet European Union Commissioner for Refugees Dimitris Avramopoulos in the French capital to discuss the migration crisis over dinner in Paris.

In an interview with the Italian media ahead of the talks, Minniti said that Italy cannot continue being the only European nation that welcomes migrants rescued from the central Mediterranean.

"If the only ports where asylum seekers are taken are Italy's, something is not right. This is the crux of the matter," Minniti told the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero on July 2.

Minniti also stressed the importance of stabilizing Libya and securing its borders, since "97 percent" of boat migrants set off from the Libyan coast, as well as the wider need to improve livelihoods across Africa.

According to the UN, some 77,000 migrants have landed in Italy since the start of the year, up 15 percent on the same period a year earlier, and some 1,800 have died crossing the Mediterranean in the dangerous journey.

Libya is the most common departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe by sea.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella warned that "if we continue with these kind of figures, the situation will become unmanageable, even for a large and open country like ours."

On June 28, Italy threatened to stop vessels from other countries unloading migrants at its ports after rescuing them in the Mediterranean, saying some 80 percent of migrants were seeking better economic opportunities and were not fleeing from war or persecution.

"We are confronted with growing numbers that over time could severely test our reception system," Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and BBC
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