Italy, France plan to alert migrant boats in Tunisia

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ROME – Italy and France plan to deploy ships or planes to alert Tunisia of the departure of clandestine boats carrying migrants from the north to Italian coasts, like the young Tunisian who is the main suspect in a deadly knife attack in a French church last week, Italy’s interior minister said on Friday.Italian Minister Luciana Lamorgese and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin met in Rome on Friday. Darmanin refused to blame Italy for handling the Tunisian suspect, who landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa in September, was quarantined under pandemic rules and received expulsion papers from authorities before reaching France in October.

“At no time did I think there was anything wrong” in the way Italy handled the case, said Darmanin, responding to a question at a press conference with Lamorgese after their interviews. Instead, he thanked Lamorgese and the Italian intelligence services for an exchange of information in the days following the Nice attack.

Tunisians fleeing a virus-ravaged economy are the largest contingent of migrants disembarking in Italy this year, and they arrive directly from Tunisia in boats strong enough not to need rescue. In recent years, the majority of migrants arriving on the southern coasts of Italy came from sub-Saharan Africa and crossed the Mediterranean aboard non-navigable boats launched by traffickers in Libya.

Lamorgese said she and Darmarin had discussed a plan that would involve deploying “naval or air assets that could alert Tunisian authorities of possible departures” and help them intercept ships, “within their autonomy that we do not do not want to rape ”.

Within the framework of this plan, there would be “only an alert that we would give to the Tunisian authorities to facilitate the traceability of the ships which leave this territory to go to the Italian coasts”, declared the Italian minister. “It is obvious that this supposes the collaboration of the Tunisian authorities.”

After his morning meeting in Rome, Darmarin said he was traveling to Tunisia, Algeria and the island of Malta to discuss migration and terrorism issues.

“France and Italy must define a common position for the fight against illegal immigration at European level”, he declared.

Darmarin was asked whether following the recent terrorist attacks in France, the French government should pass legislation like the USA Patriot Act promulgated after the September 11, 2001 attacks to step up efforts to detect and prevent terrorism.

“More than a Patriot Act, what is needed is a European Act,” Darmarin replied. “France alone cannot fight against Islamist politics.”

Tunisia is one of the few countries to have repatriation agreements with Italy. But with thousands of Tunisians arriving by sea recently and fewer than 100 deported migrants sent back to the North African country by plane each week, priority is being given to those deemed dangerous. There was no indication that Nice striker Ibrahim Issaoui, 21, posed a threat, Lamorgese said.

The two ministers met a day after French President Emmanuel Macron said his country was tightening its border controls after multiple attacks this fall.

Italy and France are launching, on an experimental basis, six months, mixed brigades of Italian and French security forces at their common borders to strengthen controls, Lamorgese told reporters.

Frances D’Emilio, The Associated Press



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