5,000 Migrants Flood Lampedusa Island

European Union Urged to Share Responsibility

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2011 (Zenit.org).- A pastor from Lampedusa is warning that the island’s 5,000 inhabitants cannot support the needs of an equal number of migrants who have arrived in recent days.

Father Stefano Nastase told Vatican Radio, «The whole of our community has gone to work to guarantee the reception and to supply the needs of institutions, but an island of 5,000 inhabitants cannot support all this weight.»

The Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea is located 70 miles from Tunisia, and thus has been a popular landing site for refugees from North Africa. In recent days, due to the political unrest in that region, some 5,000 migrants have fled to the island, which encompasses only about 7.7 square miles.

On Sunday the authorities decided to reopen a hospitality center on Lampedusa to accommodate the migrants.

The center welcomed 2,150 people the day of its opening, Vatican Radio reported, but on Monday there were new arrivals.

Father Nastase stated, «The CIE [Center of Identification and Expulsion] is not the adequate answer; it serves a different solution, to be studied with our government leaders.»

He added, «I hope the institutions will intervene as soon as possible and that good sense will prevail.»

Protection or expulsion

Oliviero Forti of Caritas Italy said, «Now there is need to evaluate case by case to see if it is a question of migrants who have the right of humanitarian protection or if, according to the government, they are destined to expulsion.»

«We insist that every form of control or dispute be done in respect of international norms and human rights,» he added.

The Tunisian affair, observed Forti, «demonstrates that the migratory question is not resolved with a single agreement, but a more ample policy would be useful, that regulates the flows without blocking them.»

He warned, «If new humanitarian channels are not opened there is a risk of new massacres.»

Roberto Maroni, Italy’s Minister of the Interior, requested «an urgent convocation» of the European Council of heads of state and government to address the landings of persons from North Africa, after the political unrest in the last weeks.

Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, stated however that last Saturday the offer of help was rejected; this was denied by Maroni.

On opening the plenary session in Strasbourg this week, Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament, commented that «the member states of the European Union must share this responsibility.»

On the relation between Italy and Europe, Forti stated: «The members states of the European Union have carried out agreed policies only in regard to containment and the dispute over migrations. They have never worked out together policies of admission and integration.

«If there is not the courage to do so, appeals to Europe are not worth much.»

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