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Italy mulls temporary humanitarian visas to aid Libyan migrants

taly has confirmed it is considering issuing temporary humanitarian visas that would allow migrants who have arrived from Libya to travel around the European Union

19 July 2017, 8:24am
“We don’t accept being turned into a European hotspot, or feeling guilty because we rescue people,
“We don’t accept being turned into a European hotspot, or feeling guilty because we rescue people," Mario Giro said
Italy has confirmed it is considering issuing temporary humanitarian visas that would allow tens of thousands of migrants who have arrived in the country from Libya to travel around the European Union.

In an interview with Il Manifesto, Mario Giro, the Italian deputy foreign minister, said the government was looking at all options including the granting of temporary visas. Previously he had simply described the idea as speculation, and it had been dismissed by the interior minister.

“We are in a tug of war,” Giro said, adding that Italy wanted to avoid unilateral gestures, but was against the strict application of EU law which required migrants to remain in their first country of arrival.

“We don’t accept being turned into a European hotspot, or feeling guilty because we rescue people, so deciding what to do with the migrants who arrive is everyone’s responsibility,” he said.

An estimated 93,357 people, mainly from sub-Saharan African and Bangladesh, have arrived by boat in southern Italy by 16 July, a 17% increase on the same period last year, according to the interior ministry. The number of deaths is put at 2,207, a small decline on the same period last year.

The refugee crisis is putting growing political domestic pressure on the Democratic party-led government, with PD mayors refusing to take extra migrants and plans for legislation on citizenship being shelved at the weekend by the Italian prime minister, Paulo Gentiloni.

On Monday, the Italian foreign minister, Angelino Alfano, said the idea of humanitarian visas was not on the agenda.

The EU high commissioner for external affairs, Federica Mogherini, insisted the issue was not discussed at the EU foreign affairs council meeting on Monday in Brussels.

However, Italy is examining whether they could invoke the application of directive 2001/55, a measure approved following the Balkan wars, that allows the granting of humanitarian visas.

According to Giro, it was too early to say when or how many such permits could be issued. He said the Italian authorities who received asylum requests already had the power to grant them.